JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. - Jefferson County Public Schools is gathering input from the Columbine High School community as it considers tearing down and replacing the buildings in which the 1999 massacre occurred.
In a letter to the community, Jeffco Schools Superintendent Jason E. Glass said reconstructing the school is currently just a proposal. He said it is being considered because Columbine has become a magnet for those interested in the shooting.
"School shooters refer to and study the Columbine shooting as a macabre source of inspiration and motivation. Called 'Columbiners,' there are people across the globe obsessed with the Columbine shooting. Sol Pais, the Florida teen who made her way to Colorado to take her own life, instigating concerns for a potential threat and causing schools across the entire Denver metro-area to close, was but one example," Glass said in the letter.
Additionally, Glass said that each year, the school district and law enforcement make contact with hundreds of people who are interested in the shooting and want to visit the school.
"Most of them are there to satisfy curiosity or a macabre, but harmless, interest in the school. For a small group of others, there is a potential intent to do harm," Glass said.
The superintendent added that during the past 11 months, a record number of people have trespassed or tried to enter the school illegally.
Glass said school safety experts recommend tearing down buildings in which the shootings took place.
"Since the morbid fascination with Columbine has been increasing over the years, rather than dissipating, we believe it is time for our community to consider this option for the existing Columbine building," Glass said.
If the school were to be rebuilt, the district would have to ask taxpayers for an additional $60 million to $70 million in funding. Jeffco Schools said the property tax impact would be roughly $1 to $2 monthly for a $500,000 home in Jefferson County.
While the proposal would rebuild much of the school, the name, mascot and colors of Columbine would be retained.
Ideas for the reconstruction include building the new school west of Columbine's current location. The district is also considering keeping the Hope Library and "making it the cornerstone of the new building." The new building would also have enhanced security features.
The full letter to the community is below:
Dear Jeffco Public Schools parents, staff, students, and community members,
On April 20, 1999, the Jeffco community was rocked by the then unimaginable school shooting which took the lives of thirteen and injured many other students and staff at Columbine High School. Amplified by media attention, the entire world watched as Jeffco struggled to make sense of the tragedy and loss, followed by our grieving and eventual recovery.
Since that time, school shootings have become all-too-familiar in our nation. From the horrors of the six and seven year olds taken at Sandy Hook, to last year’s shooting at Marjory Stoneman-Douglas High School, to the recent Douglas County STEM shooting in our neighboring community – while still rare, school shootings are growing in frequency.
The tragedy at Columbine High School in 1999 serves as a point of origin for this contagion of school shootings. School shooters refer to and study the Columbine shooting as a macabre source of inspiration and motivation. Called “Columbiners,” there are people across the globe obsessed with the Columbine shooting. Sol Pais, the Florida teen who made her way to Colorado to take her own life, instigating concerns for a potential threat and causing schools across the entire Denver metro-area to close, was but one example.
Columbine High School has a gravitational-pull for these sorts of individuals. Annually, local law enforcement and Jeffco’s Department of School Safety make contacts with hundreds of individuals seeking to enter the school and reconnect with the 1999 murders. Most of them are there to satisfy curiosity or a macabre, but harmless, interest in the school. For a small group of others, there is a potential intent to do harm.
Columbine High School is now one of the safest schools in the nation, with a sophisticated system of surveillance and police/security protection. It also boasts a strong, inclusive, and positive school culture. We continue to be inspired by the sound of voices in unison shouting “We Are Columbine!”
Still, the school site continues to serve as a source of inspiration for potential school shooters, and its lasting impact only seems to be growing. 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.
In 1999, no guidance existed on what to do with a building such as Columbine High School. Today school safety experts recommend tearing down buildings where school shootings take place. Since the morbid fascination with Columbine has been increasing over the years, rather than dissipating, we believe it is time for our community to consider this option for the existing Columbine building.
The Jeffco Public Schools Board of Education and administration are exploring the concept of asking voters for an additional $60-$70 million at the polls at some point in the future to construct a new high school for Columbine. An expansion and renovation of the current high school was included as a part of the 5B Bond Program approved by voters in 2018 with an amount of $15 million designated for the school. This money could be considered as part of the new school construction or re-distributed to other schools across Jeffco for the purpose of enhanced safety features.
The following are some conceptual ideas for the new school and potential financial impacts:
- 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 property tax impact for the new construction would be around $1-2 per month for a $500,000 home in Jeffco
- The 5B funds previously designated for the current Columbine High School (approximately $15 million) could be re-distributed to other schools across Jeffco for the purpose of enhanced safety features
We are in the very preliminary and exploratory stages of these conversations and we are seeking community feedback and thoughts on this proposal.