UVALDE, Texas (KXAN) — Plans to move forward with demolishing the elementary school where 21 people died last year are paused right now due to a court order, according to the district’s interim superintendent.
During a news conference Monday morning, Interim Superintendent Gary Patterson from the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District told reporters that he cannot share a timeline on when crews can tear down Robb Elementary School because of “litigation.” He clarified that this is related to a court order filed by District Attorney Christina Mitchell, but he said he hopes this will be resolved by this summer.
“Litigation has tied that up and will continue to tie that up. We hope to be fairly close to the end of that,” Patterson said about the school demolition plans Monday. “When everybody’s cleared that building, we’re waiting for one more party to clear it. When that’s cleared, then we can begin the plans for the demolition.”
KXAN reached out Monday afternoon for comment from the district attorney. This story will be updated once any response is shared.
A gunman killed 19 students and two teachers at Robb Elementary School on May 24, 2022. Monday’s news conference gave local leaders, including Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin, a chance to discuss the tragedy’s impact nearly a year later. He shared how there will be no city-sanctioned events this week to remember the tragedy, but mentioned the victims’ families are planning their own remembrances that the public can attend.
“This week we’re here to support the families,” McLaughlin said. “This is not about us. This is about these families and these survivors, and it’s our time to reflect on the memories of these children that lost their lives that day and the two teachers.”
The mayor expressed frustration Monday about the lack of accountability nearly a year later for the failed response to the shooting. Critics point out it took dozens of law enforcement officers 77 minutes before they went into the classroom and killed the gunman.
“I’ve said over and over: everybody that was there that day has to be held accountable whether it be the school police department, the Uvalde Police Department — every agency that was there,” McLaughlin said. “This is my opinion: it’s been a bunch of BS that we’ve been a year, and we’re still waiting for answers that we are. But we’re moving forward to get those answers now. As soon as we have our report, we should have been done, but it’s not. Then I can promise you whatever action we need to take, we will take.”
He and the Uvalde city manager, Vince DiPiazza, noted Monday the city hired an independent investigator to come in and evaluate its police department’s response to the Robb Elementary shooting. However, they said that effort still remains ongoing.
The Uvalde CISD created a foundation after the shooting to work on demolishing Robb Elementary School and building a new facility in its place. The new school will cost about $60 million and relies entirely on private donations. To date, the Moving Forward Foundation is more than 70 percent to that goal. The new building’s plans include ways to memorialize those killed last year.
At the Texas Capitol, lawmakers took up measures aimed at improving school safety and addressing mental health care following the deadly shooting. However, legislation striving to tighten restrictions on guns failed to advance despite the pleas and protests from families of the children killed in Uvalde. They specifically called for a measure to raise the age to buy AR-15-style semi-automatic rifles from 18 to 21. The gunman in this shooting bought two AR-15-style rifles just days after his 18th birthday.
Uvalde’s mayor said Monday all the mass shootings that are happening should lead to a conversation about “gun control,” but he endorsed no specific changes he’d like to see happen.
“We need to look at changing the law. We need to do stronger background checks, but we have elected officials up there on both sides of the party that say my way or the highway,” McLaughlin said. “We need to reach a point that we can sit in a room and have a conversation. I’m not going to get 100%, and you’re not going to get 100%, but together we can come up with something that works.”
A poll released earlier this month from the Texas Politics Project showed three out of four Texas voters support the idea of enacting stricter gun control measures that would raise the age requirement to purchase a weapon in the state.