The Santa Fe Independent School District plans to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on high school renovations to block off and renovate parts of the school where a student on May 18 shot and killed 10 people and wounded about a dozen more.
The district’s board met on Monday to discuss options on renovating the high school, and to consider what measures can be accomplished in the two months before school begins in late August.
School board president J.R. “Rusty” Norman said the area of the school needed to the renovated quickly for the emotional and psychological health of students.
“The area we’re talking about primarily is the art classrooms, the two rooms and the hallway where the shootings took place,” Norman said. “There’s still evidence of that today. While the blood has been cleaned up, the bullet holes are still there. A lot of things are in disarray.”
The district’s primary focus is blocking off, or possibly removing, the art classrooms and hallways where students and teachers were killed and injured. On May 18, a 17-year-old student entered the school and opened fire in an art classroom in the north section of the high school, at the rear of the building. Ten people were killed, and another 13 injured, before the student surrendered to police.
The board hired cre8 Architects, a Houston firm, to design the changes to the high school. The firm had already been retained by the district for the design of the district’s new elementary school.
Among the options the board will consider is blocking off the art hallway with drop-down doors, or physically removing the hallway entirely. The school could also build an entirely new hallway that bypasses the art area.
The school also will need to replace much of the flooring around the art classroom. The flooring was significantly damaged during the shooting, architect Jerry Bevel said.
The area where the shooting happened has been released by investigators and is no longer considered an active crime scene, Bevel said.
The proposals presented to the board on Monday would cost anywhere from $300,000 to $550,000, according to preliminary estimates the board received.
The money for the renovations would come from the school’s general fund.
The options the architects presented were meant to be things that could be accomplished in the 10 weeks the district has before school begins on Aug. 21.
“All of this is a challenge in terms of getting this done,” Bevel said.
The board of trustees did not make any decisions about the renovations on Monday. The board will need to call a special meeting to make decisions about the renovations, Norman said.
School officials said the changes at the high school will need to happen quickly.
The changes talked about in the most detail on Monday were just temporary “phase 1” changes, school officials said. A more extensive renovation is planned for some time in the future.
In addition to closing off the school around the art area, the board also talked about building a secured entry vestibule, with bullet-proof glass, at the front entrance of the school, surrounding the high school campus with a gated chain-link fence and adding additional offices for police officers around the school.
The school also will need to figure out how to house some programs displaced by the closure of the art hallway, including the school’s dance program, which might now take place on the school’s stage.
The second phase of renovations could move the school’s police department into the area of the art hallway, officials said.
One thing seemed certain — students would not be attending class in that part of the building at any time in the future.
“I don’t think anybody here wants to put kids back there,” said Bob Atkins, the school district’s director of maintenance, operations and construction.
The discussion about the building updates came on the same day the school board approved its budget for the next school year. The $39 million budget includes an 11 percent increase in the school district’s spending for security and monitoring services, to about $585,000. Most of that increase is reflected in a higher payroll for the Santa Fe ISD Police Department.
On Monday, the school district announced it would hire five new police officers and five new security guards to provided added security for the school.
Other changes to security are still being considered. The district’s newly formed safety and security committee met for the first time last week and met again on Monday.
The ad hoc group is expected to make a number of security recommendations to the board, though a set date for those recommendations has not been announced.