Classes are canceled at Episcopal School of Jacksonville Wednesday, but a steady stream of students is coming to the school to comfort each other, talk to counselors and come to grips to with the violent death of the head of the school at the hands of a former employee.
Police said Dale Regan was shot and killed Tuesday afternoon by a Spanish teacher whom she had just fired. Officers said 28-year-old Shane Schumerth returned to campus with an assault rifle hidden in a guitar case, entered the administration building and fired several shots. Police said after killing Regan, he killed himself.
In the first minutes after gunfire was heard on campus, students hid under desks in classrooms.
Several students heard shots. Ninth-grader Christi Riley heard a scream, but didn't know at the time what it was.
"I don't really want to think about it," she said Wednesday.
Once police determined that Schumerth was the gunman and had taken his own life, classes were dismissed. The school has announced that classes will not resume until March 19 -- after spring break.
The break was to give students, faculty and the community time to cope with the loss of Regan. The 63-year-old longtime educator had worked at the school for 36 years and took the position of headmaster -- which she changed to head of school -- seven years ago.
"It doesn’t seem possible," seventh-grader Lexi Riley said. "The school just seemed like such a safe place, and then something like this happens."
State Attorney Angela Corey, who will be involved in the investigation of the murder-suicide and serves on the Episcopal School's board of trustees, was a student of Regan when she taught at Englewood High School.
"I was hysterical, obviously, at first. And then when we first got to the scene, of course, the prosecutor (with) 25 years of doing homicides specifically takes over," Corey said. "I knew there were some evidentiary things that we still have to look into, have to track. Even when the perpetrator commits suicide, you still want to know, did he leave anything behind that could give insight into this? Could we prevent something like this in the future? And we wanted to know who he had contact with. So the police are still looking into all those things, but our main focus right now is assuring people that the Episcopal campus is still a serene and beautiful place."
The school opened the Bryan Library and encouraged students who want to talk about what happened to come by between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. both Wednesday and Thursday.
The Rev. Kate Moorehead, dean of the Episcopal Diocese of Florida, said it's important for the students to be able to talk about what happened.
"When a tragedy of this magnitude occurs, every human being responds in a different way," Moorehead said. "Some will have great sadness and tears. Some will be very angry. Some are experiencing just confusion and wanting to know what to do next."
One student who came to talk on Wednesday was 11th-grader Robert Steeg, who was in Schumerth's Spanish class.
"He was kind of quiet. We described him as awkward," Steeg said. "But for the past few weeks he had been acting kind of weird. We thought it was because he knew he was getting fired. We didn't expect him to be able to do something like this."
Steeg said for the past couple of weeks, Schumerth had stopped teaching Spanish and was instead teaching about fascism, communism, politics and economics.
As Janet Livermore brought flowers to a growing memorial to Regan by the sign at the Atlantic Boulevard entrance to Episcopal School, her first thought was relief that her children had already graduated. She then questioned what was going on in the mind of Schumerth.
"He's made so many victims of the children, and then, of course, the parents," Livermore said. "I can't even imagine what it would have been like for me if I had that phone call."
A large memorial service for Regan is scheduled for 11 a.m. Friday in the Campion Courtyard by Parks and Lastinger Halls at the school. It is open to all, especially students, faculty and staff and all members of the Episcopal community, the school said.
A viewing will be held from 4-6 p.m. Thursday at Hardage-Giddens Funeral Home at 4115 Hendricks Ave. and is open to the public.
Regan's family has asked that condolences and in lieu of flowers and donations be sent to the Dale Regan Memorial Fund at Episcopal School of Jacksonville at the school's address, 4455 Atlantic Blvd. 32207.