DIXON, Illinois -- The start of the 2018-2019 school year meant change for Dixon High School.
Since January 2018, renovations have been underway to get the school up to code, like working on plumbing, electrical systems, and fixing window leaks. They also made improvements aimed an enhancing students' learning, like widening classrooms, making use of natural light, and installing air conditioning for the first time.
But staff said the most important improvements were security upgrades.
"With the event from last May it was even more prevalent that (security) was the highest priority," said Building and Grounds Director Kevin Schultz. "By all means we wanted to keep our students and staff safe."
On Wednesday, May 16, police say Matthew Milby was accused of firing a 9 mm semi-automatic rifle at Dixon High School, as his classmates practiced for graduation nearby.
Despite the frightening end to the school year, Dixon High School Principal, Dr. Michael Grady, said coming into the first day of school Monday, August 20, students were excited.
"We have opportunities for kids to be successful, no matter what they want to do," said Dr. Grady. "We don't let one event define us."
But looking back at the staff, student and community response, Dr. Grady said that event showed how strong they all are.
"It's confusing to me, because it was our best and worst day at the same time," he said. He explained how proud he was of his staff for proving that they are willing to do whatever it takes to protect the students.
The renovations were expected to cost between $23 million and $24 million. Work on the outside of the building was set to be complete in the fall of 2019.