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What’s next for Parkland school building? Visits, demolition, then a question mark

Max Schachter entered the building where his son was murdered five years ago to sit on the chair where Alex took his last breath.

He exited carrying Alex’s bright green English book.

“It was my way of connecting with my little boy again,” he said outside, after the visit. “I felt Alex there, but I also felt the horror and the terror. It was like a war zone in there. ... There’s blood everywhere, all over that building.”

Max Schachter, the father of Alex Schachter who was murdered in English class during the Parkland massacre, speaks to the media after visiting the crime scene of the 2018 Parkland shooting in the 1200 building of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Thursday, July 6, 2023.
Max Schachter, the father of Alex Schachter who was murdered in English class during the Parkland massacre, speaks to the media after visiting the crime scene of the 2018 Parkland shooting in the 1200 building of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Thursday, July 6, 2023.

On Thursday, Schachter was one of a few family members to visit the 1200 building at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland before demolition begins.

On Feb. 14, 2018, Nikolas Cruz, an expelled student, killed 17 people and injured 17 others inside that building. Since, the building has been surrounded by a fence — windows covered, doors shuttered — to keep the crime scene pristine for evidence at trial.

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A Broward County Sheriff officer greets visitors as they arrive to visit the crime scene of the 2018 Parkland shooting in the 1200 building of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Thursday, July 6, 2023. The school district plans to demolish the building.
A Broward County Sheriff officer greets visitors as they arrive to visit the crime scene of the 2018 Parkland shooting in the 1200 building of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Thursday, July 6, 2023. The school district plans to demolish the building.

Now that the criminal trials against the shooter and a campus sheriff’s deputy accused of inaction have concluded, the Broward State Attorney’s Office offered a walk-through to the 17 survivors of the tragedy and the relatives of the 17 murdered. Some accepted.

NOW MORE: Deputy acquitted of all charges for failing to act during deadly Parkland school shooting

How did families and survivors visit Stoneman Douglas?

Visits to the 1200 building started Wednesday, will resume Friday and likely continue next week, said Paula McMahon, a spokeswoman for the Broward state attorney’s office. Emotional support, legal and other experts are helping.

On Thursday, relatives of three victims — former coach Chris Hixon, and students Alex Schachter and Martin Duque Anguiano — visited the building, as well as three survivors — Ashley Baez, Isabel Chequer and William Olson.

Chequer, who testified in the trial against Cruz that she got grazed twice by bullets, departed the school campus with a large white box.

Debra Hixon, whose husband died trying to disarm Cruz, wore a bright yellow shirt that read: “#NeverAgain In Rememberance of Chris Hixon 2-14-18.”

Hixon, now a member of the Broward School Board, said she wanted to see the exact place where Chris ran in, got shot and landed.

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Debra Hixon, at right, wife of Chris Hixon who died in the shooting, departs after visiting the 1200 building of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Thursday, July 6, 2023. The Broward County school district plans to demolish the building where 17 people were murdered on Valentine’s Day in 2018.
Debra Hixon, at right, wife of Chris Hixon who died in the shooting, departs after visiting the 1200 building of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Thursday, July 6, 2023. The Broward County school district plans to demolish the building where 17 people were murdered on Valentine’s Day in 2018.

Schachter, who became a school safety advocate since the Parkland massacre, said he felt a need to better understand how his son died.

“I wanted to know what happened in that building from the inside,” he said after. “I wanted to know why he’s not here today.”

Schachter said he realized his son was sitting inside the classroom Cruz first attacked, and because of the position where Alex sat, he didn’t have time to hide. Schachter said he wants to eventually get Alex’s chair and take it home.

How will the school district demolish the building?

The Broward County school district expects to get access to the building by mid-July, Keyla Concepción, a spokeswoman with Broward County Public Schools, wrote in an email Thursday.

A contractor will destroy the building by mechanical demolition, not implosion. That process will not occur during school hours. It will take place after school, on weekends and on school holidays, she said.

READ MORE: What’s changed in South Florida schools since Parkland?

Demolition and restoration will take four to five months. The exact costs have not been determined yet, but the school district allocated a budget of $1.4 million.

“No additional details are available at this time,” Concepción said.

Are there any plans for a memorial?

On Thursday, Schachter said he will be attending the demolition and wants to see a memorial in the space.

The Broward County school district hasn’t announced plans for the grounds where the three-story building stands.

In 2020, the district built an $18 million building to replace Building 12, so a new classroom building likely won’t be built on the site.

Family members and survivors will visit the crime scene today of the 2018 Parkland shooting in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School 1200 building on Thursday, July 6, 2023. The school district plans to demolish the building.
Family members and survivors will visit the crime scene today of the 2018 Parkland shooting in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School 1200 building on Thursday, July 6, 2023. The school district plans to demolish the building.

Tony Montalto, the father of victim Gina Montalto, visited the building Wednesday and said he’s looking forward to the school district’s proposal for a memorial. Ideally, he said, they would know what will be built before the demolition in case they need to keep access to water and electricity.

“We need a memorial,” he said. “Just because the building goes doesn’t mean that that ground is not sacred and important because of who was lost there, who was taken.”