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Emotions run high in debate over future of Sandy Hook school

No decision has been made as to whether to reopen Sandy Hook Elementary or move it to another location after a panel met to find a resolution to the matter. WVIT's George Collie reports.

A decision on whether to reopen the Sandy Hook Elementary School building, where 20 first-graders and six staffers were massacred, was stalled Friday as emotions ran high at a town meeting.

A task force of more than two dozen officials had narrowed down the choices to two: raze the existing Newtown, Conn., building and open a new school down the street, or renovate or rebuild on the existing site.

But after a group of Sandy Hook teachers spoke privately to task force members before a public meeting on Friday night, the panel said it could not make an immediate decision and was looking at other options.

When the teachers emerged from a closed-door executive session, some in tears, they declined to say what they had recommended, just that the conversation was "difficult."

Newtown school board member Laura Roche said those teachers made it clear they never want to set foot in the building again. Task force members said they were re-evaluating their options and a vote won't happen until next week or later.

Some victims' families have said they are horrified at the thought of children returning to the campus where Adam Lanza spilled so much blood during his Dec. 14 rampage.

Julio Cortez / AP file

A task force is deciding whether to reopen Sandy Hook Elementary School, seen here in an aerial photo.

“I will chain my body to it and protest if they try to reopen it,” Erica Lafferty, the daughter of slain Sandy Hook Principal Dawn Hochsprung, told NBCConnecticut.com before the meeting. “It should be knocked down. There should be some type of long-lasting memorial.“

Janet Zipperstein, mother of a fourth grader and a second grader, said kids should not have to return to the building where their schoolmates were executed or even to a new school nearby.

"My second grader is never gonna step foot in Sandy Hook school," she vowed. "It's never gonna happen."

Others said demolishing the building would send the wrong message.

"It's not the building that was the problem. It was someone in the wrong frame of mind," said Steven Uhde, father of a Sandy Hook second grader.

Frank Thorp V / NBC News

Erica Lafferty, whose mother was the principal of Sandy Hook Elementary, thinks the school building should be torn down.

"I don't want to give someone else that is in the wrong frame of mind this as the precedent -- to say, 'You know what? If I can't take out people, at least I'll wipe out the school.'"

Mike Scarpa, father of two children who attended Sandy Hook, said a renovated building at the site would be a tribute -- "an incredible way to honor the 26 angels that were lost."

Sandy Hook students who survived the shooting have been going to class in a repurposed school building in the neighboring town of Monroe. They can stay there through the 2016 school year as long as the school board approves a new lease.

The task force originally considered 40 locations for a possible new school before narrowing the choices. It will make a recommendation to the school board.

Whatever the decision, there will be precedent for it from other schools that have also been the scene of mass shootings.

Columbine High School in Colorado demolished the library where most of the 12 victims of a 1999 shooting died, but reopened the rest of the facility within months.

At California's Oikos University, where seven were killed in 2012, the classroom in question is now used only for theology classes. Virginia Tech, where 32 died in 2007, turned one of the classrooms into a violence prevention center.

The West Nickel Mines Amish School in Pennsylvania, where five girls were shot dead in 2006, was torn down.

George Colli of NBCConnecticut.com contributed to this report.


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