The local school authority revealed intentions to destroy the school ten days after the massacre.
Given the May 24 events as well as the cultural and historical importance Robb Elementary holds in the little town located 60 miles from the Mexican border, it was not an easy choice to make.
The school’s past shouldn’t be forgotten, according to Irene Stone, the director of development at Uvalde’s El Progreso Library, whose family assisted in building the building in 1955.
“I’d love to see all this history that we have researched put in that memorial,” Stone told news reporters, “so that we can honor the men like my grandfather and my great uncle and my dad who built the school.”
In a neighborhood where the population has consistently remained at 80% Hispanic or Latino, Robb Elementary played a crucial role in the fight for equal rights by Chicano and Mexican-American students, who at one point were prohibited from speaking Spanish inside the school’s walls, according to Stone.
650 students staged a walkout in the spring of 1970 in protest of the dismissal of one of the school’s sole multilingual and Latino teachers. A lawsuit resulting from the demonstration showed the district had broken the precedent-setting Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision made 16 years earlier, and it ordered the district to desegregate in 1976.
That decree was later challenged by the school district in 2007, but an agreement was reached with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, a civil rights nonprofit which took up the case, in 2017.
District leadership has spent the months since the Robb massacre seemingly at odds with many of the victims’ families, with some parents organizing a two-week sit-in protest at the district office, culminating in the controversial resignation of longtime Schools Superintendent Hal Harrell.
Gary Patterson, a career administrator named interim superintendent in Harrell’s place, said he supports the decision to demolish the school, but acknowledged questions about how to honor Robb’s legacy are complicated.
“I don’t think that the history of Robb Elementary or the significance have to go away. Because to take the building down, I mean, it’s more than just the building,” Patterson told news reporters. “It’s the history and the culture. So, what we need to do is find a way as a community to memorialize the history of that area as well as the students who lost their lives.”
When asked about a proposed memorial on school grounds, Patterson said nothing’s been decided yet.
There is currently no scheduled date or budget for the demolition of the school, but the district and Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin have assured residents that plans are forthcoming.
Construction is set to begin on a new school adjacent to one of the community’s existing elementary schools in August for students to attend as early as 2025. The district has set a fundraising goal of $50 million, which will be the sole source of funding for the school.