JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Wednesday was a difficult day for the students, faculty and staff at Episcopal School of Jacksonville.
It marks the one year mark since a murder-suicide on campus in which Head of School Dale Regan was killed in her office.
Police said Shane Schumerth, a teacher she fired earlier in the day, went back on campus and shot and killed her, then himself.
The Episcopal family memorialized Regan on Wednesday as the school dedicated the Dale D. Regan Plaza around the school's great oak tree, which is hundreds of years old.
A 12,000-square-foot wood deck was constructed to protect and preserve the root system of the great oak tree, which has been there for centuries, and it's something that was important to Regan.
The area was a gathering place for her and her sons before she was tragically killed.
"She gave freely to me and my brother," Regan's son, John Regan, said at the ceremony Monday, "and even though she is gone on, when I come back to visit this tree, even though I am too old to climb its branches, I will sit in the shade and I will be happy, because I am the boy who loved the tree very much, and this plaza makes me happy. I love you, mom."
Colorful ribbons made by students decorate surrounding trees in the plaza. Sacks said the colors signify the light she brought to so many people's lives.
"She was passionate about teaching and about the students, and this really brings together the campus for everybody," Sacks said. "This school is a place of life and learning, and that's what we remember about her."
Also in the crowd for Wednesday's ceremony were former graduates, parents and others from the public touched by Regan's life and death. State Attorney Angela Corey was one of her students.
"Under her tutelage, we discovered gifts we did not know we had," Corey said. "It is no coincidence that more than one of us, that Dale saw more potential in us than we could see for ourselves."
Those in attendance went to read poems, sing and talk about the impact Regan had on their lives. They said she left behind a legacy of love and now a symbolic place of peace.
"Dale meant a great deal to this school over the years, from the time she set foot here to her death," said David Foerster, the school's founder. "We miss her."
"She was a very loving and giving person, always spoke to me by name, always a kiss on the cheek," said Randy Gordon, of the class of 1979. "This tree has a lot of meaning to those on the school here."
Over the last year, people have donated $300,000 to the Dale D. Regan memorial fund, which made these projects possible.
School security increases in wake of killing
Regan's killing was the first school shooting death in Jacksonville since 1993. And unlike other school shootings where students typically are responsible, it was a teacher who pulled the trigger.
"It was very tragic. You realize how precious life is, and things can happen in a moment's notice," Gordon said. "It brought Jacksonville together to realize this kind of thing can happen and we have to take precautions."
The school has made several security changes to ensure that something like this never happens again.
"We have checkpoints now on campus, increased communication with law enforcement," Sacks said. "We increased the number of emergency drills we do. We revamped our emergency communication plan and crisis communication plan and all that."
Sacks said the school has hired an extra security officer, expanded and upgraded its 911 notification capabilities, created stricter campus visitor policies, and implemented a workplace violence prevention policy.
On campus, the school has installed a digital patrol check system for 24-hour security patrols. And it's completed a cyber re-keying project, limiting access to the building without first being approved.
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