EVACUATED STUDENTS – La Conner Schools emptied their classrooms on Monday as students participated in a disaster drill. They were “evacuated” to hilltop locations in town. – Photo by Maria Matson
La Conner Schools is embracing a philosophy of “prepare today for tomorrow” when it comes to getting ready for disasters in a world that isn’t always perfect. Students and staff braved rain on Monday afternoon as they walked to three “safe” locations on the hill in town after evacuating the school for the district’s new “all-school evacuation drill.” Floods, tsunamis and school shootings are all things that could prompt a school evacuation, John Aguilar, the school’s security specialist, said. A key part of the drill was getting students to higher ground. The middle school and high school students walked briskly to the Garden Club and the United Methodist Church, and the elementary students were bussed to the Sacred Heart Catholic Church, all hilltop locations in town. He even prepared for the possibility that the Rainbow Bridge might not lead students to safer grounds, Aguilar said. “We didn’t want to cross the bridge in the event there’s no bridge to cross,” he said. Each school completely vacated within a couple of minutes, and “they were in a wonderful mood,” he said of the students’ reaction to the surprise drill. “They were very positive.” The school currently conducts fire drills, earthquake drills and two types of lockdown drills, Aguilar said. But a few months ago, he and interim superintendent Peg Seeling realized they didn’t have a drill practicing a response for a major disaster that would leave the buildings unsafe, such as floods or earthquake damage. Skagit County Sheriff’s Sgt. Tobin Meyer, commander of the La Conner detachment, was directing traffic on Morris Street to ensure the students made it safely across their route. Meyer said he was pleased to see the school rehearse their safety routine. “Because when you need it, it’ll be chaos,” Meyer said. “It’s better to work out the kinks now.” Aguilar said he’s received good feedback so far from staff about the new drill, which will be done at least once a year. “They were impressed with the students,” he said.