SANTA FE, Texas (KTRK) -- In a move that caught organizers off guard, district officials are seeking a possible new location for a planned memorial park to honor those killed and the survivors of the May 18, 2018, mass shooting at Santa Fe High School.
Within hours of the board's vote, a sign that had promoted the future location at the high school for four years was removed. The sign was erected by the district.
The fact that an alternate location was even being considered was news to the foundation in charge of raising funds and designing and overseeing the memorial park.
"We had no idea the SFISD Board of Trustees was discussing the alternative location," Megan Grove, the chair of the Santa Fe Ten Memorial Foundation, said.
Unbeknownst to those involved in planning the memorial park, the district asked the school attorney, Ellen Spalding, to look at all legal and "creative" options to make room for the memorial at the high school, as has been the plan since the design was initially proposed in the summer of 2020.
Spalding told board members that the district couldn't donate the land to the foundation and that any property sales would require an open sale going to the highest bidder at or above market value.
District officials had asked about a potential lease, but Spalding tried to discount that route because the district would have to maintain control of the land.
Control of the land was never a concern for the Santa Fe Ten Memorial Foundation as intentions early on were that the organization would donate the memorial and even cover maintenance costs for a while.
The "only option," as some members called it, was a proposal to sell school district land adjacent to the Mae Bruce Library to the city for the memorial. That would meet legal criteria, Spalding said.
Many board members were quick to voice support for that option even though neither the Santa Fe Ten Memorial Foundation nor the city has expressed interest in such a move.
Santa Fe Mayor Bill Pittman is among the 444 people who have signed a petition within the past two days supporting the memorial at the high school property.
Spalding never addressed the possibility of the memorial and associated costs being donated, which according to the law, is allowed. It's a process used for decades by districts across the state.
But neither the district's board members nor attorney even explored that option. At least in public.
Even when board member Angie Lambert asked if there were any other options, neither Spalding nor other board officials acknowledged the possibility of a memorial donation from the foundation.
In fact, the district has already accepted donations as part of the memorial, including an art installation, called an "unfillable chair," and a planned Indian statue.
All those items were funded by and donated by the foundation.
Grove said she, too, questioned why school board members didn't consider the memorial donation option, which leads many supporters of the memorial to question whether board members don't want a constant reminder in front of the school of what occurred on May 18, 2018.
Some survivors have in the past challenged board members claiming they are secretly opposed to a public memorial because it also reminds the public of policy and procedural failures that allowed the mass murder.
School Trustee Patrick Kelly seemed to hint at some silent opposition to the memorial at the high school.
He said he had always questioned that location and heard from some in the community opposed to a high school location for the memorial.
School Board Trustee Vice President Eric E. Davenport claimed that things were "not set in stone" and a location for the memorial was "never permanently established."
"There's a little bit of a safety and security benefit," Davenport said. He said a different location would make for some "peace and quiet."
When asked about the potential of the City of Santa Fe having no interest and the Santa Fe Ten Memorial Foundation saying no to a different location outside of the school, Davenport said, "I truly think we'll have to cross that bridge when we get there.
See ABC13's full coverage on the Santa Fe school shooting.