Photo provided by C.Shepard
HOPE Columbine Memorial Library, which stands near the west entrance of Columbine high school, was dedicated to the victims of the 1999 shooting.

Third in a 6 Part Series
Columbine High School remodels again, 21 years later

After 14 students and one teacher were killed in Columbine High School’s library and at its west entrance on April 20, 1999, the staff, school board and community decided to repair and remodel. That decision brought tragedy both to the school and to the community involved.

The decision seemed moral and responsible at the time, but the consequences have led to constant monitoring of the school 24 hours a day, 7 days a week as the site continually attracts tourists who want to see it. Cameron Bell, Jefferson County School District’s executive director of media relations and public information explained that some people even seem to worship it. On top of all that, since 1999 Columbine has been regularly receiving threats that they must deal with, and every threat has to be investigated by the local police and school authorities.

Students, their families and their teachers are all impacted by these threats. “Each one of those threats is also a work stoppage for the district employees. And, we have to monitor trespassers constantly. We have even had media posing as students to get in. Local law enforcement has additional capital costs for security because of this site,” stated Bell in a phone interview.

One of the most impactful threats was in August of 1999 when the students arrived to school only to see freshly painted swastikas outside of the school and in the bathrooms, according to The New York Times. That occurred recently after students had decorated tiles in the building for the victims.

The community initially said to leave the building up because they would be giving in to the shooters otherwise, not knowing that the problems brought by this would be substantial.

“We were basically the first one (school shooting), and we didn’t know then what we know now. We’d likely do it differently if we could go back and do it over.”

— Cameron Bell, Executive Director

Zerger Elementary, a school building which had sat empty in the district for a couple of years, was set up as a training facility for school shootings after the Columbine tragedy. Named after the Columbine principal at the time of the shooting, the Frank DeAngeles training facility is equipped with new technology that can put visuals on a wall or in a classroom to look like a school shooter. “The district security, local law enforcement, the FBI and schools across the U.S. are coming in to train here. We think it is one of a kind,” Bell stated.

Even though the school did not rebuild, the repairs were expensive. Fox News reported in 2001 that approximately $1.2 million was spent for remodeling flooring and ceiling panels. At the main and side entrances, the name of Columbine and a flower design were inlaid into the floor. The cafeteria was repainted and new tables and chairs were put in. To avoid having students hear the same alarm system that blared through the high school on the day of the shooting, a new alarm system was installed. The school also sealed off the library with a wall lined by lockers where most of the shooting occurred.

Local residents Sharon Magness and Bob Sturm each pledged $250,000 for a new Columbine library. Approximately a year after the incident the Jefferson County school board voted 4 – 1 in support of the plan to demolish the old library and replace it with an atrium. According to local media at the time, the atrium was filled with forest art.

After $3.1 million was collected in donations for the atrium and a new library, the new library was built on a grassy knoll near the west entrance of Columbine. In dedication to the victims, the new library was named HOPE Memorial Library. This project was headed by HOPE (Healing of People Everywhere), an organization formed by the families of those who were killed in the Columbine attack.

After 21 years, Columbine High School will now be improved after the Jeffco Builds 5B bond recently passed. According to Jeffco Public Schools this bond will include exterior improvements with fresh paint and exterior repairs, a new auxiliary gym with dance studio, interior remodel with updated weight room and locker rooms, additions and renovations for classroom programs, exterior and interior security enhancements and more.

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For part 4 in the series click here