Reynolds renovations: 'It's a new place, but the memories are still there'
PORTLAND, Ore. - Reynolds High School revealed renovations to its gym on Wednesday, nearly three months after freshman Emilio Hoffman was shot dead by a classmate inside that building.
The shooting is still in the back of the minds of many students, teachers, and community members, yet a new school year starts in just a few days. School officials wanted the gym's lobby to have a new look as a symbol of a fresh start and continued healing for the campus.
"We're moving forward. We're taking a space where we've had a tragedy and not only have we repaired it and made it right, we've made it better, and we've shown our kids and our community that we care about this school," said Principal Wade Bakley.
The lobby's old brick walls and dim lighting are now gone. A giant media screen, a huge picture of the school's logo, and bright trophy cabinets filled with sports memorabilia now fill the space.
The boys' and girls' locker rooms were also renovated. They were scheduled for a face-lift even before Hoffman was shot and killed in the boys' locker room. However, school officials said the actual lockers haven't been installed yet.
Public restrooms are just a few feet away from the boys' locker room. The shooter killed himself in that men's room after he shot Hoffman.
School officials expanded the renovated area to include the lobby and the public restrooms after the shooting happened as a way to give the entire area a different look, a fresh look for students who are still trying to put the shooting behind them.
Students, parents, and teachers were invited to tour the new space Wednesday evening.
Michael Magee brought his twin sons, James and Jamal, for a look.
"That look gives it a real, like a 'wow!' look when you step in, so I'm pleased with that," said Michael Magee. "It gives everyone inspiration, a fresh breath coming in to a new year."
"When I went in there I didn't think nothing about what happened last year, it's just moving forward," said Jamal Magee.
His brother agreed, but said it's hard to forget what happened in June.
"Every time I look at the locker room, the boy's locker room, I know that something happened there," said James Magee. "It's a new place, but the memories are still there."
Renovations were paid for by generous donations from businesses, and people who wanted to make sure Reyolds High School got a fresh start.
Principal Bakley said he's proud of the redesign, but now his focus is on making sure all of his students continue to heal.