A New Columbine?

June 6, 2019

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 twenty-one 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. You can share those by visiting:  

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/YT65D7V

Kind regards,

Jason E. Glass, Ed. D.

Superintendent & Chief Learner

7 thoughts on “A New Columbine?

  1. Dr. Glass:

    Keeping kids safe should be a paramount concern. So kudos on the purpose for this proposal.

    However, if Columbine is now “one of the safest schools in the nation,” after its rebuilding in 1999-2000, I’m not convinced that a 60 million rebuild will make it even marginally safer.

    The emotionally disturbed or unstable have been making their pilgrimages to a building that isn’t the Columbine building of 1999. Why would they desist from this practice merely because another new Columbine Building, with the same name, is constructed? I believe Columbine is less a building or place and more an idea or symbol for those about whom we are most concerned. I suggest that this is a proposal based on the suspect assumption that irrational and emotionally troubled people would suddenly be inspired by logic to not fixate on Columbine merely because of a new building. If you want to really eliminate threats, you’d have to consider eliminating Columbine the place.

    Build a new Dave Saunders school at a different site! No, that proposal would not fly in the Columbine community.

    This past Spring has been very difficult for Colorado students, parents, and teachers (I am one) everywhere: way too many suicides and threats of suicide, intense emotional suffering among students and stakeholders, pervasive feelings of powerlessness…it’s been paralyzing to say the least.

    And because these feelings are so raw, I think all of us in education would do well to resist the impulse to act–“We have to do something now!”–simply because the impulse is so strong. We hate inaction while anxiety afflicts us! But the issues we face in schools are very deeply rooted and complex. We who are committed to children would serve them best–in the long run–by investing time first in understanding the complexities and constraints we face in our schools and school systems and by resisting the allure of new programs or expenditures that feel right, now, but exact costs–social, educational and financial– in the future. This proposal seems reactive, rushed, and ill-considered.

    Good luck in your continued efforts to serve all of our children, Dr. Glass.

    Dr. Chris Meagher,
    Cherry Creek High School
    25 year resident of Jeffco

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    1. Thank you, Chris. This is a difficult and emotional issue but I am proud of the way our community is engaging. I think we have to keep the door open on all our possible options at this point.

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  2. Dr Glass,
    I do not believe tearing down Columbine High School would benefit anyone except the Columbine Shooters who wanted some gratification and recognition for what they did. Well, tearing the building down is a win for them. Many of us will always remember our children and friends who had children die that day and driving by Columbine High School is a testament to their very lives and a stark visual remembrance that we will never forget them. If we follow the logic to tear it down, then should we also begin the process of tearing down every building that has been involved in such activities? How about tearing down the STEM school now? It doesn’t make any sense. If there is a problem with looky lous and unwanted people walking into the building, find another solution. Lock the doors while kids are in class. If someone needs to enter the building during class, have a security person open a locked door and let them in or to let out someone who has to leave the building. Put a big sign on the front of the school that says “No admittance unless you have a pass or appointment to be in this building” or something like that. That would be a cheaper solution than tearing down the school. Treated like a military base and only permit those who need to be there on the premises.
    Also, the Memorial is close by and people want to make that connection. Are you going to move it too? There are cheaper ways to solve this problem. Think outside of the box.

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    1. Thanks for the suggestions, Bobby. I do appreciate your perspective. Please know that if there are any steps to be taken to secure the perimeter, grounds, and doors – they have been taken.

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  3. Dr. Glass,

    I was at Columbine when the shooting occurred and am against building a new school. We were so proud to reclaim our school after the shooting, not allowing the shooters the satisfaction of destroying us, but showing that we are stronger than them and evil will not win. The chanting “We are Columbine” echoed through the halls showing our pride and strength. We survived the onslaught of calls, tour busses, press, and looky lous. They have diminished over time but increased because of the press coverage of the 20th anniversary, the woman with the gun and STEM school shooting. As time passes I am sure this too will slow down but there will always be people who are curious no matter if the school changes it’s name or location. Columbine is a great school, kids want to attend CHS not because of its history of the shooting but because of it’s excellence. I am sure the 60 to 70 million dollars would be welcomed buy teachers needing updated teaching materials, older schools needing repairs, building new schools and even giving teachers much needed raises! “WE ARE COLUMBINE “

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