Photo provided by Wikimedia Commons
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is a Broward County crime scene today.

Fifth in a 6 Part Series
Demolition of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School delayed by ongoing Broward County death-penalty trial

Could your school district survive a $10.4 million catastrophe? What would you do when potentially 800 people’s lives were put in immediate risk at your school? How would you as an administrator, staff member, student, parent or community member survive?

Broward County, Florida school superintendent Robert Runcie had to face these questions.

On Feb. 14, 2018, the anniversary of Northern Illinois University’s school shooting, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida succumbed to one of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history. After the shooter entered the school’s Building 12, he took the lives of 14 students and three staff members, additionally injuring 17. Up to 800 people were in the building at the time. Superintendent Runcie’s ordeal began immediately after this shooting.

The media alternatively villainized and celebrated Runcie as parents of Parkland students began complaining that they wanted the building torn down (Building 12 had cost $10.4 million to build). As his district’s students marched, they eventually convinced Florida Gov. Rick Scott to sign the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, according to the school’s initial report. Runcie’s school and his students became household names.

Part of the Safety Act required the creation of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Safety Commission. The commission specifically analyzes information from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, as well as other places of education that have experienced the same tragedy, to help better understand the impact of violence and to prevent future acts.

Just two weeks after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas school shooting, students in Runcie’s district returned to classes in portable buildings brought onto the campus while at the same time community members pressured to remove Building 12 because of how it was going to impact students and staff members seeing it on a daily basis. Meanwhile, the three-story Building 12 was still being swept as a crime scene.

Students, staff members and community members are still seeing Building 12 on a daily basis almost two years later. “The building remains in custody of the Broward County State Attorney’s Office as evidence in the upcoming trial,” Keyla Concepcion, manager of media and community relations, said in an email interview.  As it is a crime scene, it must be held as such till the end of the shooter’s death-penalty trial, which has been delayed until this summer. Building 12 will stand until it is no longer needed for law enforcement.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is now known for its association with the Feb. 14, 2018 tragedy. Before the shooting, the school name was known for honoring an important figure in the Parkland community: journalist, environmentalist and Presidential Medal of Freedom award winner, Marjory Stoneman Douglas. Stoneman, born in 1890, founded “Friends of the Everglades” and advocated for racial equality and women’s rights, according to A&E Television.

Buildings 12 and 13 had been added in 2009 for the high school which serves over 3,000 students in 14 buildings on 45 acres of land (the school opened in 1990 as Broward County’s first public high school). The campus that the shooter entered included entrance doors placed directly into stairwells, allowing easy access from the outside to all three floors. Classroom doors required locking from the outside. That meant teachers had to exit their classroom during the shooting and use a key to lock the door from the hallway to keep their students safe.  The metal classroom doors feature an 8 inch wide pane of glass. The interior walls are constructed with drywall which bullets can pierce through.

Once the Florida state attorney’s office releases the 11-year-old Building 12, it is slated to be torn down and replaced by a new 44,480 square feet, two story, $18 million building to be designed by Zyscovich Architects and constructed by James B. Pirtle Construction.

It will have an improved intercom system and controlled access points. Motion sensored LED lights, for both the interior and exterior, will be installed for improved, more efficient lighting of the 30 classrooms. Other energy and storm improvements are being planned as well.

Umpqua Community College’s purchasing manager, Jules DeGiulio, was involved in a similar capital project when UCC’s Snyder Hall shooting required building a new facility. “People were in recovery mode, and they needed time to help each other. But, the college still needed to continue to operate,” DeGiulio said. DeGiulio explained that the only way UCC was able to survive was an onslaught of experienced volunteers, 24/7, some from outside of the state, some who stayed for months. The amount of work in an emergency capital project is staggering, he explained. 

Though much of that work still remains, the new Marjory Stoneman Douglas building has had the foundation laid and the interior and exterior columns put into place.  Concrete has been poured for the elevator shaft and egress stair, also the first and second floor slabs and roof slabs. Connecting walkway columns and beams, underground utilities, and roof tie beams and parapet have all been built, as well as other work.

According to the Broward County Education Foundation, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Victims’ Fund will be allocating funds in July:  $400,000 to families of the 17 victims, $1.63 million for the 18 injured individuals, $2,500 for the 450 students who were in the building at the time of the shooting and $1,000 for the 1,048 students who were on campus during the time of the incident.

After the tragedy of a school shooting event has passed, the side effects on mental health have a ripple effect in the minds of survivors, many now having post-traumatic stress disorder.The urgency for how this is impacting students is felt deeply in the Parkland community. One week after the school shooting, a 16-year-old student survivor died by suicide, a year later another 19-year-old student survivor died by suicide.

The U.S. Army posthumously honored three of the students whose lives were lost while defending others at the time of the shooting with Medals of Heroism, which is the highest medal for Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps cadets.  One of the students, Peter Wang, a member of the JROTC, was given a posthumous admission to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point for the Class of 2025.

As of now,  $1 million has been set aside for a future memorial. However, in January 2019, student Victoria Gonzales and teacher Ronit Roeven came together and started “Project Love.” Through the project a memorial garden was created in honor of the students who lost their lives. The garden can be found on the northeast side of the high school, supplied by donations from members of the community.

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For part 6 in the series click here