(Reuters) - Newtown residents and officials this weekend will begin debating what to do with Sandy Hook Elementary School, the site of the second-deadliest school shooting in U.S. history, in which 20 first graders and six school staff members died.
Town officials plan to host two "community conversations," the first on Sunday afternoon and another on January 18, to seek "ideas for the future of the Sandy Hook school facility," Newtown First Selectman Patricia Llodra said in a statement on Wednesday. They also expect to update residents on the role the state and federal governments will play in the process.
The school remains closed to everyone but police investigating the December 14 attack. Its students -- more than 400 children in kindergarten through fourth grade -- have been relocated to a school in the neighboring town of Monroe.
"This approach will require a great deal cooperation and compromise," the town's statement said. "We will hear passions expressed for every possibility and will have to remember, always, that every person in the conversation wishes to do the right and best thing for our larger community, for Sandy Hook, for our school, our students, and our families."
In the days after the shooting, a number of residents said they could not imagine having children ever return to Sandy Hook for classes in the building where a score of six- and seven-year-olds and six adults, including the school principal, were gunned down with a semi-automatic assault weapon.
In letters to the local paper and local officials, many have advocated that the site should become a memorial to the victims.
"No student, no parent and no teacher is going to be comfortable going back into that building. Ever," Newtown resident Jim Wright wrote in a letter to the Newtown Bee.
Authorities have still not disclosed a motive behind Adam Lanza's attack, which plunged Newtown, a rural New England town of 27,000 residents about 70 miles northeast of New York City, into grief, along with the rest of the nation.
Lanza, 20, killed his mother before driving to Sandy Hook Elementary to carry out the other killings. He shot himself dead following the rampage.
(Reporting by Dan Burns; Editing by David Gregorio)