Columbine High School Could Be Demolished: Is That a Wise Decision?

 

Every school shooting is a catastrophe. For every child that dies, a family is severely wounded. Many school districts have taken steps to to protect their children:

In 2016, the CDC found nearly 90 percent of public schools had a written plan for responding to school shootings, and 70 percent of those schools had drilled students on the plan.

Regarding the Columbine High School mass shooting, many steps were taken to make the school more secure. But in the eyes of some, those actions do not respond sufficiently to the situation.

Jason Glass, the Superintendent of Jefferson County Public Schools has written an open letter proposing that the school be demolished and cites several reasons, including this one:

School shooters refer to and study the Columbine shooting as a macabre source of inspiration and motivation. Perhaps influenced by the 20th anniversary of the shooting, over the past 11 months the number of people trying to enter the school illegally or otherwise trespassing on school property has been increasing – now to record levels.

He also says that “school safety experts recommend tearing down buildings where school shootings take place.”

I’ll return to this “analysis” later in this post.

Mr. Glass proposes the following changes:

  • Retain the name of Columbine High School, honoring the pride and spirit the community has with the name
  • The current school mascot and colors would be unchanged
  • Construct the new school near the current location, west of the current site
  • Consider preserving the Hope Library, making it the cornerstone of the new building
  • The existing building would be demolished, replaced with fields, and controlled entry points
  • The new building would have enhanced safety features, designed to provide greater monitoring and school privacy

The new school would require $70 million to construct.

Not everyone thinks that tearing down the school is a good idea.

Unfortunately, the school district is presenting information to voters that is not based on reason, but on thinly disguised emotion and bias. For example, it isn’t clear who is visiting the school; to make the assumption that they are potential shooters is unreasonable. Second, I couldn’t find data to validate that more people are visiting the school “in the last 11 months” than previously; since we don’t know who these people are (they could be simply curious tourists), it’s hard to determine how this information is helpful. (A person could liken this curiosity to people who stare at car accidents as they drive by.) Third, there’s no evidence that the removal of the school would stop people from wanting to visit the site, even though it will mainly be fields; the new school, if built, will be nearby. Fourth, demolishing the school will not necessarily make students safer; the school district has one of the best-protected schools in the nation. Fifth, the experts who recommend tearing down schools that are locations of mass shootings aren’t identified, nor is their expertise defined. Finally, the emotional impact on students who survived and families who lost children is impossible to measure. One survivor offered his perspective on the potential demolition:

‘It’s not right,’ Josh Lapp, 36, who works in the construction industry and is another survivor, told NPR. ‘This community has had to deal with enough of a burden, to ask them to pay for this new construction isn’t fair, just because of what the shooters did.’

Another survivor offered the following:

Will Beck, 36, a Columbine survivor who now works as a financial adviser in Utah, said he recently took his three young children to the school to walk them through the bathroom he sought shelter in during the shooting. He pointed out the exact location where a teacher saved his life. And he showed them the fence he climbed to finally escape the violence.

‘I was heartbroken over the thought of losing it,’ Beck told NPR. ‘The school, to me, is a very special place.’

Revisiting the school shortly after the shooting, and even now with his children, helps him conquer the trauma.

‘We can’t let the shooters rule our lives,’ Beck said.

The questions that I hope residents will ask themselves are the following:

  • Are we being fiscally responsible to demolish the school? Are there other more helpful ways the $70 million could be spent?
  • Will this action make a difference in the lives of the surviving students, families and the other residents of the community? If yes, in what ways?
  • What do we want to accomplish by removing the school and building a new one?

I realize that the decision to raze the school and build a new one lies with the community; however, if someone from that area asked you to provide input to the Jefferson County residents, what would you tell them?

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There are 56 comments.

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  1. Stad Thatcher

    Susan Quinn: I realize that the decision to raze the school and build a new one lies with the community; however, if someone from that area asked you to provide input to the Jefferson County residents, what would you tell them?

    I say they should “raze” Jason Glass’s job and replace him with someone more fiscally responsible.

    Using his logic, if the memory of the Columbine High School shooting causes angst and distress, then you would not name the new school “Columbine High School “, nor would you make the school colors and mascot the same.

    No, he just wants a new building and can’t justify it based on the current building’s condition . . .

    • #1
    • June 10, 2019, at 9:51 AM PDT
    • 17 likes
  2. The Great Adventure! Member

    But it’s for the children!!!

    I have to hand the lefties one thing – they can come up with some truly creative excuses for reaching into their constituents pockets. All of said excuses are BS, but you could develop an entire creative writing curriculum based on them.

    • #2
    • June 10, 2019, at 10:18 AM PDT
    • 8 likes
  3. JoelB Member

    People may have different reactions. Some may want to preserve it. Others might have difficulty even looking at it. As for me I would be against taking down the building on the basis of what happened there. In a few more years a new generation will come along for whom it will not be an issue, but they will be paying for decisions made in a time of stress.

    • #3
    • June 10, 2019, at 10:19 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  4. EJHill Podcaster

    Seeing how Ford’s Theater has become a shrine with all the Hollywood and Broadway actors dreaming of assassinating a Republican President trying to break in and touch the spot where John Wilkes Booth walked…

    • #4
    • June 10, 2019, at 10:22 AM PDT
    • 10 likes
  5. Kelsey Shockey Coolidge

    I attended Northern Illinois University where there was a shooting in Cole Hall 11 years ago. They demolished and reconstructed the building immediately. That seems like a sensible way of going about it. To me, it is way too late to go down that path at Columbine. 

     

    At this point, the kids who actually experienced the trauma have their own children attending high school. The children attending Columbine now have no trauma from the event. They were not born. If anything, they should feel an obligation to honor the past victims and the school’s resiliency in the face of tragedy. The problem is not with the students. It is with the faculty, teachers, and administrators. They are the ones promoting this trauma that does not exist among the current student body. I feel for the former students. It would anger me to see the superintendent acting so disingenuously with a tragedy of this kind, especially after twenty years. God knows its hard to teach students how to think about a legacy and a past that involves tragedy. But, that’s what needs to be done. Any adult accepting a role in that school district knows that and should be prepared. Adults can be lazy. That might be what is happening here.

     

    Or as with all things related to public education in this country, using emotion and people’s good nature tend to open the check book. The Superintendent wants a new school. The faculty is happy to have a shiny new car. If Mr. Glass gets his way, he’s sure to find all sorts of new doors opened to him. He will be the target of educational head hunters across the country. If you can fundraise and build stuff you can get ahead in education today. That’s the incentive structure. Robert Moses would enter the education field if he were around today. He probably would have asked for a new building too.

    • #5
    • June 10, 2019, at 10:26 AM PDT
    • 11 likes
  6. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    Kelsey Shockey (View Comment):
    I attended Northern Illinois University where there was a shooting in Cole Hall 11 years ago. They demolished and reconstructed the building immediately. That seems like a sensible way of going about it

    @kelseyshockey, so you think demolishing and reconstructing at your university was a good idea? I’d like to hear your thoughts on that.

    • #6
    • June 10, 2019, at 10:30 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  7. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    @stad and @thegreatadventure, I’m so naive that it didn’t occur to me that Glass might just want the money–period! I’ve got to remember to track this story, to see what decision was made. I have to hope–must hope–that the community will see through this reckless proposal and stop it.

    • #7
    • June 10, 2019, at 10:31 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  8. 9thDistrictNeighbor Member

    The elementary school in our town has two school buildings, one k-3 and the other 4-8, about a half mile from one another. The 4-8 building used to be the only building for all grades. The total enrollment for the district has averaged 475 for the past 5 years. Two buildings. Four Seventy Five. Anyway, they tore down the solidly built 4-8 building at the end of the school year a couple of years ago and built a modern prefab thing in two months. The new building was built in a large field (think a couple of soccer fields or baseball diamonds) where the kids used to play. Now the kids have a little playground area and the rest of the schoolyard where the old building was is a “green” space not for play…rain gardens, don’t you know. The school board said they couldn’t retrofit the old school for computers. Yeah. That’s right. Everything is wifi now but, but, but….

    The old building had been allowed to deteriorate for perhaps ten years. So it was torn down. I wonder how long Columbine has been allowed to deteriorate and how much of the pricetag is for bells and whistles like swimming pools and faculty lounges. Because your appreciation of an academic department is directly proportional to the amount of faculty office space available to said department.

     

    • #8
    • June 10, 2019, at 10:36 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  9. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    9thDistrictNeighbor (View Comment):
    I wonder how long Columbine has been allowed to deteriorate and how much of the pricetag is for bells and whistles like swimming pools and faculty lounges. Because your appreciation of an academic department is directly proportional to the amount of faculty office space available to said department.

    I sure hope that when the community responds to the survey, they will ask some tough questions and hold Glass and his cohorts feet to the fire. Why do these things always have to be both foolish and political?

    • #9
    • June 10, 2019, at 10:46 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  10. Kelsey Shockey Coolidge

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Kelsey Shockey (View Comment):
    I attended Northern Illinois University where there was a shooting in Cole Hall 11 years ago. They demolished and reconstructed the building immediately. That seems like a sensible way of going about it

    @kelseyshockey, so you think demolishing and reconstructing at your university was a good idea? I’d like to hear your thoughts on that.

    I definitely would not do it now at Columbine. There’s a few factors that go into NIU’s decision. They did it immediately. And I should rephrase. They did not demolish completely. They ended up tearing out the interior and doing a complete renovation that also changed the building’s exterior facade. There are trade-offs like anything else, but I appreciate the decisiveness. There is one big difference besides the immediacy of the decision- it’s college. College is different than high school in that market forces with enrollment exist a bit more than at the secondary level. You are trying to persuade a student to attend your school. I think it was a “can’t hurt, could help” sort of thing. They had to make sure enrollment did not fall off a cliff. They decided it was better to go that route.

    They also built a memorial right outside the building. That was part of the new design. There is a memorial service every year on the anniversary. They do not ignore it.

    • #10
    • June 10, 2019, at 10:53 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  11. Miffed White Male Member

    9thDistrictNeighbor (View Comment):
    The school board said they couldn’t retrofit the old school for computers. Yeah. That’s right. Everything is wifi now but, but, but….

    Not to get off-topic, but I asked our Network guy a work about this a coupel years back when our local school board wanted what looked to me like a ridiculously large amount of money to upgrade the wifi in a couple of the elementary schools.

    He told me that School buildings aren’t real wifi friendly. It’s not like an open office building with low cubes. Schools tend to have lots of cement block interior walls, so you end up having to put in a lot of access points, each of which require their own power supply. It’s pricey to put in the infrastructure.

    • #11
    • June 10, 2019, at 10:57 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  12. The Great Adventure! Member

    Outside of the blatant money grab, I find this interesting:

    “School shooters refer to and study the Columbine shooting as a macabre source of inspiration and motivation. Perhaps influenced by the 20th anniversary of the shooting, over the past 11 months the number of people trying to enter the school illegally or otherwise trespassing on school property has been increasing – now to record levels.”

    So how is tearing the building down going to stop other school shooters from referring to and studying the Columbine shooting? Particularly, if they’re going to retain the name, colors, and mascot, and build it near the current location the only thing anyone studying the shooting would have to do is find the old floor plan online somewhere. Boy, that would involve a ton of effort. And the proof that other shooters have been studying it in the first place is where again?

    Regarding the trespassers, what is preventing them from… I dunno… putting a fence around the property with a couple of web cameras? It would seem to me that would be slightly more cost effective than a demolish and rebuild.

    • #12
    • June 10, 2019, at 11:01 AM PDT
    • 8 likes
  13. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    The Great Adventure! (View Comment):

    Outside of the blatant money grab, I find this interesting:

    “School shooters refer to and study the Columbine shooting as a macabre source of inspiration and motivation. Perhaps influenced by the 20th anniversary of the shooting, over the past 11 months the number of people trying to enter the school illegally or otherwise trespassing on school property has been increasing – now to record levels.”

    So how is tearing the building down going to stop other school shooters from referring to and studying the Columbine shooting? Particularly, if they’re going to retain the name, colors, and mascot, and build it near the current location the only thing anyone studying the shooting would have to do is find the old floor plan online somewhere. Boy, that would involve a ton of effort. And the proof that other shooters have been studying it in the first place is where again?

    Regarding the trespassers, what is preventing them from… I dunno… putting a fence around the property with a couple of web cameras? It would seem to me that would be slightly more cost effective than a demolish and rebuild.

    Precisely. On every point. I guess you and I are too . . . practical?

    • #13
    • June 10, 2019, at 11:04 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  14. Miffed White Male Member

    The Great Adventure! (View Comment):
    “School shooters refer to and study the Columbine shooting as a macabre source of inspiration and motivation. Perhaps influenced by the 20th anniversary of the shooting, over the past 11 months the number of people trying to enter the school illegally or otherwise trespassing on school property has been increasing – now to record levels.”

    “record levels”. that could mean “one”, if no one ever tried before.

     

    • #14
    • June 10, 2019, at 11:21 AM PDT
    • 7 likes
  15. Valiuth Member

    I frankly don’t understand why demolishing the building really accomplishes anything, though I guess I am so removed from the situation I don’t have to live with any of the weirdness of sitting in a class room or library were people were shot. And even if callus old me might be unmoved by the ghosts of the past maybe dealing with people who are moved might convince me it is worth the extra expenditure of rebuilding a whole new school (70 million ain’t a small amount of money to pay for psychic well being). 

    I’ve actually met a person who went to Columbine, she was a student there when the shooting happened, luckily for her she was out of the building when the incident occurred. All these years later she didn’t seem to have any particular desire to have the building torn down. Though that option never was proposed to her specifically, I just imagine that if that were a going concern for her she would have mentioned it when discussing the topic. I guess in the end this is a choice the community has to make, and peace of mind is hard to buy even for 70 million dollars, so if they do go that route I hope it works for them. 

    • #15
    • June 10, 2019, at 11:23 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  16. DonG Coolidge

    Miffed White Male (View Comment):

    Not to get off-topic, but I asked our Network guy a work about this a coupel years back when our local school board wanted what looked to me like a ridiculously large amount of money to upgrade the wifi in a couple of the elementary schools.

    He told me that School buildings aren’t real wifi friendly. It’s not like an open office building with low cubes. Schools tend to have lots of cement block interior walls, so you end up having to put in a lot of access points, each of which require their own power supply. It’s pricey to put in the infrastructure.

    POE. Power Over Ethernet. It is easy to power access points via the wiring that brings them networking.

    • #16
    • June 10, 2019, at 11:27 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  17. Hoyacon Member

    Meanwhile, d0wn the road a piece, the Century 16 theatre in Aurora, Colorado is showing Godzilla, King of the Monsters and Aladdin. Where’s the new multiplex?

    • #17
    • June 10, 2019, at 11:33 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  18. Samuel Block Member

    Kelsey Shockey (View Comment):

    The children attending Columbine now have no trauma from the event. They were not born. If anything, they should feel an obligation to honor the past victims and the school’s resiliency in the face of tragedy. The problem is not with the students. It is with the faculty, teachers, and administrators. They are the ones promoting this trauma that does not exist among the current student body.

    I think you nailed it. 

    I was in elementary school when the Columbine shooting occurred, followed shortly by the September 11th attack – interestingly, one event that especially animated the political left and the other the right. Afterwards, we began practicing “code red” drills which involved, oddly enough, hiding under our desks. I suppose its not quite as silly as using a desk for protection from a nuclear attack, but I’m always a little amused when Baby Boomers talk about the Cold War drills for this reason. 

    Anyway, my point is that when I visit my old neighborhood – which used to be teeming with kids – it strikes me as depressingly barren. During the school year, I see parents lined up in cars waiting to pick up their children from the bus stop. I can remember the names and faces of every kid from my bus stop. We organized games, we fought; all without parental supervision (and its not like people think of millennials as being a particularly capable bunch). I think this has a lot to do with young people’s modern obsession with “realness,” which they seem to associate more and more with hipsterism and ghetto subculture. They’ve been smothered with well intended hyper-emotionalism, and they don’t have much of an inclination to stand up against it. After all, they’re scarred too.

    I’m not a parent so I know that I can’t relate to the anxiety that these tragedies instill to people with children. But these trends – even the more obvious and probably necessary ones – do have consequences. As for the one mentioned in your post, Susan, that just strikes a plain-old bad idea. I guess all of these are expensive in their own way though. 

    • #18
    • June 10, 2019, at 12:16 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  19. Fake John/Jane Galt Thatcher

    We must destroy all bad things otherwise the snowflakes will melt.

    • #19
    • June 10, 2019, at 12:25 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  20. Samuel Block Member

    The Great Adventure! (View Comment):

    Outside of the blatant money grab, I find this interesting:

    “School shooters refer to and study the Columbine shooting as a macabre source of inspiration and motivation. Perhaps influenced by the 20th anniversary of the shooting, over the past 11 months the number of people trying to enter the school illegally or otherwise trespassing on school property has been increasing – now to record levels.”

    So how is tearing the building down going to stop other school shooters from referring to and studying the Columbine shooting? Particularly, if they’re going to retain the name, colors, and mascot, and build it near the current location the only thing anyone studying the shooting would have to do is find the old floor plan online somewhere. Boy, that would involve a ton of effort.

    Yeah, that bit struck me as ridiculous. How would it even help unless the school someone was targeting was laid out the same way? 

    And the proof that other shooters have been studying it in the first place is where again.

    I don’t doubt that kids inclined to do this sort of thing would “study” it, I think some recent shooters have admitted as much. But I think it would be more generally of the basic strategy of the shooters, whose actual goal would have much more devastating had things gone according to plan. 

    • #20
    • June 10, 2019, at 12:26 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  21. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    Valiuth (View Comment):
    I guess in the end this is a choice the community has to make, and peace of mind is hard to buy even for 70 million dollars, so if they do go that route I hope it works for them. 

    I agree with you, @valiuth. If they go that route. But it’s impossible to know before, during or after taking it down whether it helped anyone’s psychic wellbeing. That’s the catch.

    • #21
    • June 10, 2019, at 12:26 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  22. Miffed White Male Member

    Samuel Block (View Comment):

    And the proof that other shooters have been studying it in the first place is where again.

    I don’t doubt that kids inclined to do this sort of thing would “study” it, I think some recent shooters have admitted as much. But I think it would be more generally of the basic strategy of the shooters, whose actual goal would have much more devastating had things gone according to plan. 

    That’s the irony. Columbine was not supposed to be a shooting. It was supposed to be a bombing, with the two perpetrators hanging out in the parking lot to pick off survivors coming out of the rubble. They didn’t have a “plan” for assaulting the school with guns. They did it “ad hoc” after the bombs failed to go off, which was why the casualties were so relatively light (compared to what they could have been given the hour or two of time they would have had to go around shooting people before the cops entered the building). Fortunately they [apparently] got bored after shooting several students in the library and offfed themselves about 15 minutes after the whole thing started.

     

    • #22
    • June 10, 2019, at 12:53 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  23. Stad Thatcher

    Kelsey Shockey (View Comment):
    That seems like a sensible way of going about it.

    That seems like an incredible waste of money.

    • #23
    • June 10, 2019, at 2:17 PM PDT
    • Like
  24. Stad Thatcher

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    @stad and @thegreatadventure, I’m so naive that it didn’t occur to me that Glass might just want the money–period! I’ve got to remember to track this story, to see what decision was made. I have to hope–must hope–that the community will see through this reckless proposal and stop it.

    I mean, seventy million dollars?

    I could buy a hundred trailer parks for a tenth of that, and refit them all to be classrooms.

    And if anyone out there crunches the numbers to show it’s not possible, I was using hyperbole!

    • #24
    • June 10, 2019, at 2:20 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  25. Stad Thatcher

    This idea was brought up regarding the Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida after the shooting there.

    The bottom line is the idea is a waste of money. As for “bad memories”, people – particularly the kids – need to learn how to get over bad things happening. Besides, they already have the memories, and you can’t rebuild the experience in their heads.

    As for Columbine, the kids are adults now. Apparently they’ve moved on, but not Mr. Glass . . .

    • #25
    • June 10, 2019, at 2:28 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  26. Full Size Tabby Member

    Stad (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn: I realize that the decision to raze the school and build a new one lies with the community; however, if someone from that area asked you to provide input to the Jefferson County residents, what would you tell them?

    I say they should “raze” Jason Glass’s job and replace him with someone more fiscally responsible.

    Using his logic, if the memory of the Columbine High School shooting causes angst and distress, then you would not name the new school “Columbine High School “, nor would you make the school colors and mascot the same.

    No, he just wants a new building and can’t justify it based on the current building’s condition . . .

    Yes, if you keep the name, the mascot, and the colors, you aren’t really changing anything. 

    • #26
    • June 10, 2019, at 3:36 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  27. Kelsey Shockey Coolidge

    Stad (View Comment):

    Kelsey Shockey (View Comment):
    That seems like a sensible way of going about it.

    That seems like an incredible waste of money.

    It’s not ideal, but I understand it. It’s a serious position. A college has to grapple with enrollment issues in the wake of tragedy of this sort.

    • #27
    • June 10, 2019, at 4:47 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  28. RPD Member
    RPD

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    @stad and @thegreatadventure, I’m so naive that it didn’t occur to me that Glass might just want the money–period! I’ve got to remember to track this story, to see what decision was made. I have to hope–must hope–that the community will see through this reckless proposal and stop it.

    Glass took over as Superintendent in 2017. Complaining about money and Betsy DeVos seems to have been his first order of business.

    Here’s an article introducing him. https://www.denverpost.com/2017/05/08/jason-glass-jefferson-county-school-district/

    • #28
    • June 10, 2019, at 5:25 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  29. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    Stad (View Comment):

    Kelsey Shockey (View Comment):
    That seems like a sensible way of going about it.

    That seems like an incredible waste of money.

    @stad, I hope you caught that this was a business decision about enrollment from the standpoint that new students might not care to enroll and attend a school where people were shot up in a particular building. I had the sense that @kelseyshockey didn’t necessarily agree with it, but could understand the decision.

    • #29
    • June 10, 2019, at 5:25 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  30. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    RPD (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    @stad and @thegreatadventure, I’m so naive that it didn’t occur to me that Glass might just want the money–period! I’ve got to remember to track this story, to see what decision was made. I have to hope–must hope–that the community will see through this reckless proposal and stop it.

    Glass took over as Superintendent in 2017. Complaining about money and Betsy DeVos seems to have been his first order of business.

    Here’s an article introducing him. https://www.denverpost.com/2017/05/08/jason-glass-jefferson-county-school-district/

    I’m deducting points from him for criticizing DeVos, particularly when that was early on for her.

    • #30
    • June 10, 2019, at 5:28 PM PDT
    • 1 like
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