The Dominion Post, Morgantown, W.Va., Michelle Wolford column
Feb 17, 2013 (The Dominion Post - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
IT ONLY TOOK THEM 45 seconds.
That's how quickly more than 500 Valley Elementary School students made their way into secure classrooms during a red alert drill Tuesday.
At 9:45 a.m., staff and students heard an announcement at the school.
"Code Red. Repeat. Code Red."
Everyone moved to safety. Everyone. And they did it in less than a minute ... without making a sound.
Think about that. More than 500 people, including wee ones in prekindergarten and kindergarten who aren't known for their quiet skills, walked into classrooms where the windows were already covered. Doors locked behind them and the lights went out all over the school.
That's impressive, I must admit.
We tried to get in.
Cpl. T.N. Tichnell knocked and announced he was from the Preston County Sheriff's Department.
Principal Greg Cummings tried, "Open the door!"
Again, no response.
Cummings gave me the safe words before the drill began. So when I knocked on the door of a quiet, dark classroom and announced "rice pudding" -- and not to worry -- "rice pudding" isn't the correct phrase any more -- the door opened immediately. Inside, students sat silently at their desks. They weren't even squirming. Again, I was impressed.
Teachers' cell phones were set to silent. "They've been instructed not to call anybody," Cummings said.
After only 10 minutes, there was a "Code green -- all clear" announcement and just as quickly and quietly, instruction resumed.
The school has done such drills before. In fact, Cummings said, they'd done a Code Red drill in November.
But this was the first since the December shootings in Newtown, Conn. Windows were covered and lights turned out, he said, because "it gives the illusion that the building is empty." Indeed, it did look empty.
Since the shooting of 20 children and 6 adults at Sandy Hook Elementary, it's mandatory that teachers keep their doors closed and locked, he said.
Had it been (God forbid) an actual emergency, Cummings said Preston 911 would have been called, then the Sheriff's Department and West Virginia State Police.
Had it been (may it never be) an actual school shooting, "children would be taken to a location of safety" once they were released by police.
Cummings was impressed -- as was I -- to see the children on their best behavior.
"The kids were quiet and orderly," he said. "There was no noise coming from the rooms."
The front door was locked, as it was when I arrived.
The same was true at Kingwood Elementary when I went there a week ago. I had to be buzzed in, just as I did at Fellowsville Elementary, where not only are you buzzed in but have to you walk through the front office to enter the school.
"The kids did fine," Tichnell said of the Valley Elementary drill.
"The teachers did great," he said. "It's as good a plan as you can expect under the circumstances."
May such drills never be anything but drills. And may the good Lord continue to provide us with little ones who can stay quiet and un-wiggly when they need to, and teachers who do great when called upon to do so.
And may we never ever experience the horror seen in Connecticut.
MICHELLE WOLFORD writesWolford's Window, which appears each Sunday in The Dominion Post. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
___ (c)2013 The Dominion Post (Morgantown, W.Va.) Visit The Dominion Post
(Morgantown, W.Va.) at www.dominionpost.com Distributed by MCT Information
[ Back To Technology News's Homepage ]