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Columbine library plan gets early OK

By Janet Bingham
Denver Post Staff Writer

Sept. 17 - Parents of murdered and injured Columbine High School students won an informal endorsement Thursday from the Jefferson County School Board for their plan to replace the library where their loved ones were terrorized.

The parents want to raise $2.6 million in private donations to convert the old library into a two-story Commons Atrium and construct a new library.

They don't want the site of the worst school shooting in American history to become an attraction for "gawkers and sightseers,'' said Tom Mauser.

His son Daniel was one of 10 students killed in the library on April 20. Two other students and a teacher were killed elsewhere on the school grounds by two student gunmen, who then killed themselves.

Board president Jon DeStefano echoed feelings of all five board members as he told parents that "we'll do everything we can to help you, because it is the right thing to do.''

Mauser told the board that the parents have been meeting on a regular basis for some time. "We have been able to share our experiences and comfort each other.''

They have also formed HOPE - Healing of People Everywhere - to provide a forum for victims and those who wish to assist victims in converting the library.

They wish it to "become an area of respect to the murdered without becoming a memorial,'' said Mauser. "We look at it as an important part of the healing process.''

Nearly all of the families of the slain and injured students have joined HOPE, Mauser said.

The library sits directly over the student commons/cafeteria. Converting it into a two-story Commons Atrium would be structurally possible by removing 80 percent of the existing library floor and leaving necessary structural supports intact, said Lynn Bruning of the Colorado Center for Community Development.

"It's a very simple, honorable way of opening up that space, and the result would be a glorious, two-story view of the mountains,'' she said. The estimated cost is $350,000.

Construction of a new library on campus would cost about $2.2 million.

"Some have said this would be giving in to the killers. No!'' said Mauser. "Rather it would be proof positive of what a community can do. We will defeat them by uniting to build something new.''

Mauser also said he didn't want future students to have to use a place that had been the site of killings. "I have an eighth-grader not yet in high school, and it's hard enough for us to think of her at that school, not to mention what it would be like with the library there.''

Brian Rohrbaugh, father of slain student Danny Rohrbaugh, said parents see the library project as "a rallying point and statement to the world that we acknowledge what happened at Columbine High School and will take every step we can to keep it from happening again.''

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