Panel votes to raze site of Newtown school shooting
Board of education must now decide whether to replace school where 26 died
Faced with what one official called a "gut-wrenching" decision, a task force has voted to tear down the site of the Sandy Hook school shooting and build a new school in its place.
The committee of 28 officials in Newtown, Connecticut, unanimously recommended the plan after weeks of discussion. Other options included renovating the current Sandy Hook Elementary School or building a new one in a different location.
The decision to rebuild on the property is a symbolic step for the community, which lost 20 children and six educators in a December shooting rampage. Since the massacre, the 430 surviving students have attended school at in a neighbouring town.
Laura Roche, a member of the Sandy Hook School Task Force and vice-chairwoman of the Newtown School Board, said that the process of deciding what to do has been "very emotional and very hard". She noted the unanimous decision.
"We came together as 28, and I hope we can come together as a community to rebuild the spirit of our community and build the school together," she said.
The US$57 million proposed project will now go to the Newtown Board of Education for approval. The residents of Newtown must also approve the plan through a referendum.
On the Facebook page "We Are Newtown", a range of reactions greeted the news. In a post, the group wrote: "Due process took place, long conversations were had, and strong emotions were shared."
"We support this decision keeping in mind not everyone will be pleased," the post read.
The post received dozens of comments, many supportive. Others said the site should not be rebuilt on at all and treated instead as hallowed ground or a memorial. Still others questioned the use of tax money.
The process of picking a new school has been agonising, mirroring those at other schools where there have been shootings.
At Columbine High School in Colorado, where a shooting rampage in 1999 by two students killed 12 schoolmates and a teacher in 1999 and injured 24 others, the school reopened several months later with the library, where most of the victims had died, taken apart and replaced with an atrium.
Demolition of the school could begin as early as January if all goes as planned.
Additional reporting by The New York Times