OSAKA — Hundreds of present and former students of an elementary school where seven pupils were fatally stabbed in June 2001 bid a fond farewell to the school buildings Sunday.

Osaka Kyoiku University Ikeda Elementary School, in the city of Ikeda, will be renovated as part of efforts to ease the painful memories of the massacre.

The suspect, Mamoru Takuma, 38, allegedly injured another 13 children and two teachers in the attack on June 8, 2001.

Of the two main structures, the north building will be completely torn down and rebuilt, while the south building will undergo renovations, according to school officials. The work is slated to begin next month.

During the farewell, some 150 current students and their parents played in the schoolyard, and some went up on the roof and took photographs. The first floor of the south building, where the stabbings took place, was kept closed out of concern that it would bring back bad memories.

Principal Yoshio Yamane called on the children to never forget the tragic incident or the fond memories they have of the school buildings.

Several hundred graduates of the school and others also took part in Sunday’s event.

A 21-year-old college student who once attended the elementary school said she is very sad about the demolition of the building.

But considering the impact of the massacre, she added, “this may be the best choice.”

Sunday marked the first time that most of the students have entered the school compound since it was locked up after the massacre to avoid any further psychological damage to the children.

Classes are currently held at a temporary school building located about 500 meters away from the school grounds. The renewal work is expected to be completed in March.

Takuma, who is currently on trial in the Osaka District Court, has owned up to killing the seven children and injuring the 15 others.

It was the second highest death toll in a single murder case in Japan in the past decade, eclipsed only by the March 1995 nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway system that claimed 12 lives.

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