Virginia Tech To Turn Classrooms At Massacre Site Into Center For Peace Studies

Friday, December 21st 2007, 7:22 am
By: News On 6

BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) _ Vowing never again to use the Virginia Tech classroom wing where a student gunman killed 30 people and himself for general classes, school officials said the space would be used to study peace.

The school announced Thursday that the rooms in Norris Hall will house the new Center for Peace Studies and Violence Prevention.

``It was an opportunity for something new and different and hopeful to emerge,'' said provost Mark McNamee, who headed a campus task force that reviewed proposals for how to use the space.

Besides the peace center, the second-floor classrooms where Seung-Hui Cho killed 30 of his 32 victims and wounded two dozen others will host an interactive learning space.

After the April 16 killings, ideas for the future of the three-story gray stone building ranged from restoring classes as usual to turning the building into a memorial or razing it.

Except for the classrooms, Norris Hall was reopened because it contained sophisticated laboratory equipment that could not be moved. Replacing the building would have cost more than $30 million, university president Charles Steger said Thursday.

Jeri Childers, outreach program director, said officials will begin planning the program for the peace studies center early next year. A minor concentration in the study of peace will probably be offered, she said.

The center will occupy about a quarter of the 4,300 square feet of the second-floor space, which be ready for occupancy next fall.

The rest will be used for video conferencing, research and lab space in an effort to bring more students back into the building, said Ishwar Puri, head of the department of engineering science and mechanics, the primary occupant of Norris Hall.

The families of victims approved of the plans, which will involve altering the space so that it no longer resembles classrooms, officials said.