It wouldn’t be the end of the school year without a little drama. On Monday, April 22, the fire alarm sounded in the middle of third block. As the school evacuated, complaints of the disturbance could be heard amidst the usual chatter. Students waited outside the building for ten minutes, then twenty; the realization dawned that this was not a drill. Despite the rain, curiosity was not quenched as Brian Fell and other administrators came around to announce that students would be sent home early on buses.
Wires within a transformer had burnt out; power was lost in the area of the gym, locker rooms and weight room, save the cafeteria. The coating on the wires melted, resulting in the pervasive smell of burning plastic.
“I sent security as well as the two custodians to go check it out,” said Woodland principal Kurt Ogren. “If you’re across from the boys’ locker room, there’s a slight hallway that leads to the weight room, and in that hallway there’s two closet doors, and within that there’s several electrical panels….and they’re hooked up to transformers…the electrician said it ‘blew’.”
The school was immediately evacuated. In less than two minutes, everyone was out of the school, and a few minutes after that, the fire department had arrived. The fire chief, when asked if the school would be safe to continue the day as normal, said “possibly”, but the amount of time needed to determine the school’s safety remained unknown. According to Ogren, he’d expressed it could take anywhere from ten minutes to two hours.
Ogren had called Region 16 Superintendent Michael Yamin to keep him updated on the situation. At this point, they made the decision to send students home on an emergency release. The students were outside for about 40 minutes in total, and they could be outside longer. It was also beginning to rain, and many students had left their jackets inside.
Eventually, the fire chief said it was safe for students to come back inside the building, but not into the locker room area. Students were placed back into their third block classrooms; those scheduled for physical education in the gym third block went to the cafeteria. District Office sent out a Schoology notice about the early dismissal, left voicemails to teachers which clarified the situation, called the buses to pick up the students. Most buses arrived within fifteen minutes. To send students home as quickly as possible, those who could drive were released immediately. Teachers worked the remainder of the day until 2:35.
Despite the early release, the electric issues were resolved for school the next day without a cancellation. Though this event was unexpected, thankfully no one was injured.
“It was a little chaotic, but I think everything went well…Education is my main job, but safety has to be my most important thing,” Ogren expressed. “The safety of everybody in the building everyday has to trump everything.”