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One year after tragedy, Reynolds students on the mend

Students remember 2014 shooting victims with end-of-school-year celebration.

OUTLOOK PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Reynolds High School students gather for a giant class photo Wednesday in the school parking lot.The scene of death and chaos at Reynolds High School on June 10, 2014, was replaced this year by a festive end-of-school party with students playing football in the sun, singing karaoke and munching burritos from a food truck.

“We don't do this every year," observed Mike Anderson, Reynolds High School's activities coordinator. "This would normally be a finals day. But we moved up finals and planned this fun day for the students.”

June 10 last year turned tragic for the school. Emilio Hoffman, a popular 14-year-old Reynolds High freshman was killed when another Reynolds student, 15-year-old Jared Padgett, stormed the school with an AR-15 rifle and handgun. Encountering Hoffman in the boys' locker room, Padgett shot Hoffman twice in the chest.

Physical education teacher Todd Rispler was injured in the attack, but made it to the school office to inform administrators of the active shooter. After grazing Rispler with a bullet, Padgett ran into a bathroom and fatally shot himself after a brief gun battle with Troutdale police.

Administrators did not know what to expect on the last day of school on Tuesday, the first anniversary of the heartbreaking community tragedy.

American flags were placed around the high school early in the morning before students arrived. Designated as a quiet room, the library was staffed with counselors for students who needed support, but no one appeared to need any.FILE PHOTO - Emilio Hoffman, shown here in an undated photo, was killed June 10, 2014, during the shooting at Reynolds High School in Troutdale.  A memorial bench bearing shooting victim Emilio Hoffmans name will be placed outside the Reynolds High School gymnasium.

Students started the day with a group photo in the Reynolds parking lot. The school noted the spot where a memorial bench would be set up, and a few students wandered over for a moment of silence and remembrance.

Students strolled around engaging in the various activities available. At several tables in the commons, students played the card game Yu-Gi-Oh, while others played pingpong. A movie was running in the multi-purpose room.

Several students ambled about holding “free hugs” signs, and a few students took advantage of the offer. Many signed a banner proclaiming, “Reynolds Strong.” Adding to the festive mood, one student with long lavender hair kept her bubble machine up and running.

With the exception of The Outlook, school administrators barred all members of the news media from school grounds, presumably to keep the focus on students and their needs. Many who were asked for an interview politely declined.

"We just want to keep to ourselves," one student said.

Isaiah Sims, incoming associated student body president for the 2015-16 school year, sounded the theme for the day.

"Everyone is coming together and moving forward," he told the Outlook.

Describing the school year as “up and down," Sims noted students who were still struggling with the tragedy probably had not come to school today.OUTLOOK PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - A memorial bench bearing shooting victim Emilio Hoffmans name will be placed outside the Reynolds High School gymnasium.

"We're really working on bridging gaps between students and between the community," he said, adding he was a friend of Emilio Hoffman since their days together in middle school choir.

To that end, Reynolds students honored the first responders in March with a luncheon and an emotional assembly.

To make sure the students felt safe around the anniversary of the shooting, the district arranged for extra security starting June 1 at all its middle and high schools. Tensions rose when some students were removed from Walt Morey Middle School last week after admitting to making threats of violence at school.

At Reynolds High, a small clutch officers from the Troutdale police department and the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office watched from a distance as students celebrated the last day of school. From the sunshine-soaked karaoke stage, they could hear some of them belting out the 2013 American Authors' hit, “(This is Gonna Be the) Best Day of My Life.”