Friday, October 15, 2010

This is Not a Drill

So, my Friday was short. I didn't even finish teaching one class before my day ended. On my way to my car, I called my husband and then my mom letting them know I decided I didn't want to teach today, so I was heading up to Mom's school and helping her out the rest of the day. Both recipients of my phone calls were quite confused when I retracted the first part of my statement and said that I actually had no choice in teaching or not today - school had been evacuated.


Just as homework questions were ending, our principal came on the intercom and announced that everyone needed to evacuate the building immediately due to a chemical spill at the high school (which our middle school is attached to). I instructed my class of 28 7th graders where to go and meet me outside and headed out to our meeting point. Not ten minutes after we got outside, we saw the waving arms of the administration standing at the doors signaling to us that we could go back inside and continue our classes.

I need to break in my story here and commend my students for being really wonderful with that evacuation. Every student spoke to me and let me know they were present when we were outside and, once back in the classroom, were all ready to go with the lesson almost immediately. Wow!

Once we got back in the classroom I told my class a story about a chemical spill that happened at my high school when I was a senior there. Chemicals had been spilled while they were being disposed of and we were evacuated from the building. Due to the explosive nature of the chemicals and their fumes, we got to leave school early (for those who rode the bus and for those who brought their car keys outside with them when the fire alarm went off in school). I finally got to leave once my friend, who drove me to and from and school, got her extra set of car keys from home.

The rest of the class went quite well. I was handing back homework and had just started speaking with students who still had missing assignments for the chapter when our principal came back on the intercom and made another announcement. This time the evacuation that was taking place was a big one.

Students and staff were to gather their things and head out of the building and down the block to the church which is our evacuation site. Buses were in the church parking lot to pick students up and bring them home, while parents picked students up who called them and let them know what was happening.

As we were walking down the block to the church, a couple of my students walking near me said, "Mrs. S! This is just like your story!!" I couldn't help but notice the striking similarities, too.

All but four of my students found to check in with me before heading off to their bus or ride home or to walk home. Pretty impressive, given the mass chaos that was going on!

The staff was debriefed in front of the church once the buses filled with kids had left. Apparently a custodian at the high school was neutralizing chemicals before disposing of them when the system got backed up and a spill occurred (yup, sounds just like what happened at my high school). Emergency procedures began and that's why the first evacuation took place. High school buses bringing students to school just turned around once reaching the high school and dropped the kids off back at home.

Later, as district administration evaluated the situation, they decided to evacuate our school yet again and end school for the day. The vent systems for the high school and our middle school are separate, though the buildings are connected, so there was no danger for fumes to be spread to our school through the vents. The administration was concerned that, with the way air could move between the buildings, that students may begin to smell odd odors as the day wore on and, as a precautionary measure to this, ended our school day.

Everyone was safe, no one was hurt, life went on, and everyone was happy to have a shortened week, even if by just a few hours. Granted, it's Homecoming this week, but the parade is still on and the game is going on as scheduled tonight, too.

And to think, next week is a short week, too! :)

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