Columbine High School would be torn down and a new school built nearby under a proposal the Jefferson County School District announced Thursday, a move driven by ongoing fascination with the 1999 school shooting there.

In a letter to Columbine families and staff members, district Superintendent Jason Glass said recent school shootings and a continuing “morbid fascination” with Columbine, as demonstrated by Sol Pais, the Florida teen who made her way to Colorado before taking her own life, is contributing to a need for a new building and school.

“The tragedy at Columbine High School in 1999 serves as a point of origin for this contagion of school shootings,” Glass said in the letter. “School shooters refer to and study the Columbine shooting as a macabre source of inspiration and motivation.”

Proposals for Columbine High School include:

  • The current school name, colors and mascot would be unchanged. 
  • The new school would be built near the current site, to the west.
  • Consideration would be given to 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.

Twelve students and a teacher were killed at the school on April 20, 1999. More than 20 were wounded in the school shooting.

Frank DeAngelis, former school principal who survived the shootings, said Glass talked to him and others about the proposal before making it public.

“You look at what has happened, nationally and internationally, and there are still references to Columbine,” DeAngelis said. “I don’t think anyone 20 years ago anticipated that in 2019 we’d be talking about this fascination with Columbine High School.”

DeAngelis said he supports the proposal.

Tom Mauser’s 15-year-old son, Daniel, died at Columbine. Mauser is active in the gun control movement and is part of The Forgiveness Project.

“I don’t really have any feelings about it,” Mauser said of the proposal. “Although, it seems to be a mighty big expense.”

Mauser said he does understand the need for increased security at the school, “and that’s unfortunate.”

The district “may need to be more visible and outward when publicizing security steps they’re going to take, but that could be kind of a no-win situation,” he said.

The district’s announcement included a link to a survey about the proposal, seeking feedback about a new building.

The district envisions asking voters for $60 million to $70 million to construct a new school. A $15 million expansion and renovation of the current school is part of the 5B Bond Program approved by voters in 2018. Glass said the approved money could be part of a construction package, if approved, or it could be distributed to other Jeffco schools to fund enhanced safety features.

Recently, as the 20th anniversary of the attack approached and passed, local law enforcement made contact with “hundreds of individuals seeking to enter the school and reconnect with the 1999 murders,” Glass said. “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.”

The current school uses a sophisticated surveillance and security system, making it among the safest schools in the country, Glass said.

Schools officials are in the preliminary and exploratory stages, Glass said, and the district is seeking community feedback on the proposal.