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B'ville: Students' safety a priority during difficult situation

Hundreds watched as dozens of people jumped into the freezing Seneca River this weekend as part of Baldwinsville's Big Chill. While this event was celebrated (despite the questionable sanity of participants), there was quite a different buzz earlier in the week when Baker High School students were evacuated during one of the coldest days of the year.

At 8:35 a.m. Monday Jan. 24, the fire alarm rang at Baker High School. At the time, my daughter, a junior at the school, was in gym class dressed in shorts and a T-shirt. She, along with the rest of the student body, were evacuated from the school into the below zero temperatures outside (some records indicate it was as low as -14 degrees that morning).

There is little that can be done in this situation; officials can't allow the students to dress properly by getting their jackets because it would put students at a higher risk of injury, i.e. a fire, explosion, etc. Risk of injury is the reason students are evacuated during a fire alarm. While it was determined there was a malfunctioning sensor that triggered the alarm, not a fire, the situation first needed to be assessed by professionals before allowing students back into the building.

I first heard about the incident when I received a phone call from the district with a message from the superintendent Monday morning, through the district's phone message service. Later, my daughter told me how she stood outside freezing, then walked to Durgee Junior High School (on the district campus) with her class. While she told me many walked, she also said other students were bussed.

I later spoke with Superintendent Jeanne Dangle, who told me busses were still at Elden Elementary (also on the district campus, between the high school and junior high school) dropping off elementary students when the alarm went off. Once unloaded, those busses were directed to go to the high school to transport students. She added some teachers had already directed their classes to walk to Durgee and Elden for shelter. Those who went to Durgee waited in the school's gymnasium, cafeteria and larger band rooms. The students and staff that went to Elden waited in the school's cafeteria. Dangle said within 15 minutes, everyone was either on a bus or at the schools. And, once officials were given the okay, all students were bussed back to the high school to finish out the day.

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