Newtown Panel Advises Tearing Down Sandy Hook Elementary

Sandy Hook Elementary School has been shuttered since law enforcement concluded their investigation of the shooting that occurred there on December 14th of last year. The children who attended the school are now going to school at a previously unused school in a neighboring town. Now, Newtown has to decide what to do with the building, and if a local civic panel gets their way, they’ll be tearing it down:

NEWTOWN, Conn. — A task force of elected officials on Friday recommended tearing down the elementary school where 20 first-graders and six educators were shot dead in December and rebuilding on the site.

The group of 28 Newtown elected officials voted unanimously in favor of a plan that would construct a new building on the property where the existing Sandy Hook Elementary School is located. The proposal now goes to the local school board and then before voters as a referendum.

Parent Daniel Krauss, whose daughter is a second-grader, said he was pleased by the panel’s recommendation.

“It’s been a place for learning, for kids to grow up and it’s going to go back to that,” he said.

The panel had previously narrowed a list of choices to renovating or rebuilding on the school site or building a new school on property down the street. A study found building a new school on the existing site would cost $57 million.

The 430 surviving students are attending a renovated school renamed Sandy Hook Elementary School in the neighboring town of Monroe.

If all goes well, officials said construction could begin in the spring and the new building could open in January 2016.

It can’t be an easy decision to make, and other communities have faced it in the past:

Residents of towns where other mass school shootings occurred have grappled with the same dilemma. Some have renovated, some have demolished.

Columbine High School in Colorado, where two student gunmen killed 12 schoolmates and a teacher in 1999, reopened several months afterward. Crews removed the library, where most of the victims died, and replaced it with an atrium.

Virginia Tech converted a classroom building where a student gunman killed 32 people and himself in 2007 into a peace studies and violence prevention center. And an Amish community in Pennsylvania tore down the West Nickel Mines Amish School and built a new school a few hundred yards away after a gunman killed five girls there in 2006.

Tearing down the building and rebuilding is most assuredly the most expensive of the town’s possible options, but there may actually be a side benefit to going that route. Sandy Hook Elementary has been for decades, indeed Adam Lanza and his brother both attended the school when they were growing up in Newtown. Building a new, state of the art school would be something that would last the community for many decades. Additionally, it wouldn’t have the same emotional resonance as simply renovating the existing building. In either case, though, I’m certain that there will be some appropriate memorial placed on the site.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. This area is relatively very high-income, and will surely get a lot of donations from Fairfield and Litchfield (a lot of “old money”) counties. This won’t impact them too badly.

  2. CSK says:

    I feel a bit like a buttinsky even commenting on this, since the decision really is the community’s alone, and my opinions carry no weight whatsoever. Whatever will help them recover the fastest from this tragedy is what they should do, and if that entails razing the existing structure and building a new one–go for it.

    As for the memorial, I’m not sure I’d put it at the school. These are very young children, and even a discreet plaque that would have to be explained to them might be frightening in its message.

    A little park in town dedicated to the memory of the students and teachers who died might be appropriate. But again–the community should do what it thinks best.

  3. wr says:

    I’m surprised the NRA hasn’t offer to buy and maintain the building as a monument to Freedom.

  4. @CSK:

    You raise a good point that I hadn’t considered.