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Local News

May 22, 2013

Safe room procedures under review

DUNCAN — Duncan elementary schools dismissed at 3 p.m. Monday, but it wasn’t until almost 5 p.m. that students who remained at the schools were released to go home.

Because of two storm systems moving through the area, the school district chose to keep students at the school as a precaution if their parents had not already picked them up. Superintendent Sherry Labyer said the plan was to keep students at the schools until the storms passed or moved away from the area as a way of keeping students safe. Buses didn’t start running until 4:45 p.m.

Originally, the upcoming construction at the Duncan High School was not intended to include safe rooms. But after Monday’s situation, Labyer has gone back to the architect to see if an addendum can be made to the project.

As elementary students took shelter in safe rooms at their schools, the storm knocked out electricity and phone service for all the Duncan schools. Horace Mann Principal Janice Gay said communication was maintained with parents and Central Office through the use of cell phones. Central Office also maintained communication with the Duncan Police Department.

“There was a lot of communication going on,” Gay said. “I think that’s what helped us.”

At Horace Mann Elementary, students took cover in the cafeteria, which was built as a safe room at the school. At Plato Elementary, students were able to use some of the classrooms without windows.

With the way the school is designed, a portion of the school is underground, which makes it easier when dealing with severe weather. Plato Principal John Millirons said the students and teachers demonstrated how the procedures should function.

“We did well,” Labyer said. “We’re going to get together and de-brief, see what we can do differently. I feel good about how things went and how well the parents cooperated.”

Gay and Millirons said things went smoothly when the schools went into lockdown. Both said their teachers and students have practiced the procedures, which helped them all know what to do.

They said their faculty members and the students worked well to get to their safe areas and to remain calm, even without the air conditioner running. High humidity and a high temperature of 89 degrees added to the discomfort.

“In a bad situation, like yesterday, I have nothing but praise for my students and my teachers,” Gay said. “Our students listened and followed procedures.

“Our parents were wonderful. It was a huge group effort.”

In addition to the Central Office administration meeting with the district principals, the principals are also meeting with their teachers to discuss how things went Monday.

Gay and Milliron said there weren’t many things they would change about how things went during the lockdown.

“Personally, I need to get a better phone battery,” Gay said.

Although the school was in lockdown, parents were able to pick up their children. Millirons said several parents picked up their children between 3 and 5 p.m. Monday.

“We told parents they could stay,” Millirons said. “The kids did a good job. I was really impressed with the kids, teachers and staff. I think we were very prepared. We did what we practiced.”

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