Newtown board to debate Sandy Hook's future

NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) - A taskforce in Newtown is expected to make a recommendation Friday night on what to do with the school where 20 first-graders and six educators were killed in December, according to a consultant for the town.

The panel of 28 elected officials has narrowed the choices to three: renovating Sandy Hook Elementary School, tearing it down and building a new school on the same site or tearing it down and building a new school on nearby property.

The taskforce struggled last Friday to move toward a recommendation before a crowd of more than 90 people, as members discussed options that weren't among the finalists. The town consultant, Richard Harwood, president of The Harwood Institute in Bethesda, Md., said the panel will likely make a decision Friday night.

The panel's recommendation would then go to the local school board and ultimately go before voters as a referendum.

Residents have mixed opinions on what should be done with the Sandy Hook School property. Teachers told the taskforce last week that it would be too traumatic to ever work there again.

Brian Engel, whose 6-year-old daughter, Olivia, died in the Dec. 14 shootings, said at last week's meeting that he and his wife want the village of Sandy Hook to have an elementary school but at a different location. He said he didn't want Olivia's younger brother to ever have to walk into the building where the massacre took place.

On the morning of Dec. 14, gunman Adam Lanza, who had killed his mother at their Newtown home, entered the school and opened fire with an assault rifle, killing the 20 children and the six adults. He killed himself as police arrived at the school.

Police have not disclosed a possible motive for the killings. Law enforcement officials have said Lanza showed an interest in other mass killings and played violent video games.

The 430 children who survived the shootings are now attending a remodeled school in the neighboring town of Monroe that has been renamed Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Other locations where mass shootings have occurred have faced the same choice about what to do with the property where people were killed.

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 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.