Time has distanced Reynolds High School students from the deadly shooting that took place in the school’s gym last year, and the building’s transformation has been an essential piece of the healing process.
A year ago Wednesday, freshman Jared Michael Padgett shot and killed fellow classmate Emilio Hoffman in the boys’ locker room and injured physical education teacher Todd Rispler before turning the gun on himself.
Oh Planning & Design Architecture in Portland had plans for renovations at the school’s gym and locker rooms prior to the June 10 shooting. After the incident, the firm was able to complete the project in 11 weeks, updating for the 2014-2015 school year and giving students a fresh start.
“It was really a project of the heart for us,” said lead architect Deb France. “We care deeply for Reynolds School District, and the message to the students that community was there for them.”
France said suppliers overwhelmed the firm with donated materials for the renovations.
“It was so touching,” she said. “That’s the only reason it was successful. You don’t see projects designed and constructed that quickly.”
Oh Planning & Design wanted to create a vibrant and modern space with updates to the area’s acoustics that would make it more calming. The company also installed a large-scale media wall — things students don’t realize that they deserve, said France.
Though no single part of the design was built as memorial to the victims, France said she felt the overall design serves as a tribute.
The Reynolds School District has been fairly quiet about any memorial-specific events on Wednesday, and has declined media interviews. District Superintendent Linda Florence released a statement in a video Wednesday, expressing sympathy to the families of the teenagers and also gratitude toward the community coming together over the past year.
“The strength of our school community is tremendous,” said Florence. “I am so proud of the way we demonstrated our strength and expressed our gratitude each and every day since June 10.”
Emilio’s mother, Jennifer Hoffman, published a letter on the Huffington Post parents blog Monday about her and her family’s experience since the fatal shooting, which she calls “a parent’s worst nightmare.”
“Since Emilio’s death, I have changed. My family has changed. Brokenhearted beyond belief. You never get over the loss of your child. Angry doesn’t even describe my feelings. I could spit nails. I hate our pain. I hate our loss. I hate our new normal. It is not fair.
“I decided early on that I had to find a way to let my son live on. I had to make a change for him — for us. I knew deep in my heart that anger was not what was going to get us through this.”
In the past year, Hoffman established Emilio Inc. — an organization dedicated to educating and improving conversation surrounding mental health.
The Reynolds School District recently received approval for a $125 million bond, allowing the high school and other district buildings to undergo safety improvements and expansions.
“Now we’re going to move into a new era,” said France of the bond passing. “Reynolds has such a strong commitment to safety. And this gym project, that’s now permeated to other parts of the district.”
As OPB reported, in addition to adding classrooms, controlled access entrances and automatic door locks will be installed at the high school.
For the last day of school, the school district said in a statement that Reynolds High School staff will set up flags for Flag Day as part of an annual tradition. A Peace Pole, which reads “May peace prevail on Earth” in eight languages, will be dedicated at Walt Morey Middle School at 10:15 a.m. Wednesday. It’s the third to be placed at a district school in the past eight years.