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Students head to safe rooms during drill

Mark Buffalo LHS principal Phynaus Wilson, right, talks to his students while superintendent Suzanne Bailey, left, listens during Friday’s district-wide tornado drill.Buy Photo
Mark Buffalo LHS principal Phynaus Wilson, right, talks to his students while superintendent Suzanne Bailey, left, listens during Friday’s district-wide tornado drill.
Mark Buffalo Lonoke School District crisis manager Patrick Matarazzo, right, observes as Karen Gibbs of the primary school directs students to the high school tornado safe room during a drill Friday.Buy Photo
Mark Buffalo Lonoke School District crisis manager Patrick Matarazzo, right, observes as Karen Gibbs of the primary school directs students to the high school tornado safe room during a drill Friday.

The Lonoke School District held a tornado drill in which students from the primary school were taken by bus to the new tornado safe rooms at the high school and the one located between the elementary and middle schools.

Around 1 p.m., the students at the primary school practiced getting on buses at the north and south ends of the building. They were on the buses in less than five minutes.

At 1:30 p.m., the primary school students left class and went to their designated buses. Kindergarten and pre-kindergarten students were taken to the high school while the first and second graders were taken to the middle school safe room. They joined the students from the other schools in the safe rooms.

The tornado drill was coordinated by Lonoke School District crisis manager Patrick Matarazzo.

“The purpose of this was to see how much time it took to get the primary students loaded onto the buses and brought over to the safe rooms,” Matarazzo said at the conclusion of the drill at the high school. “It went very well even though they knew it was going to be a tornado drill. The primary students were on the buses in less than four minutes. We thought it would be a lot worse than that [time-wise].”

Matarazzo said the principals at the primary school gave three air horn blasts at their predetermined exits. When the student are out, the principal gets on the first bus and they know they can transport to their particular safe room, he said.

“What we’re using the information that we got today is that we’re going to contact the National Weather Service and they can give us a map with our 45-minute window, hour window,” Matarazzo said. “So, whoever makes the call to evacuate the primary school, they know the time frame of when we want to evacuate the kids we are dealing with.”

Lonoke superintendent Suzanne Bailey was pleased with the way the drill took place.

“I think it went pretty good for the first try,” she said.

Bailey said the district safety team would meet this week to discuss the drill.

The drills were videotaped by the EAST classes at the high school and middle school.

“We’re going to watch the videos,” Bailey said. “We’re going to critique how we did on time, how we did getting in. How we did when we were inside.”

Toward the end of the drill, high school principal Phynaus Wilson asked his students to sit on the floor and all were able to do so comfortably.

“I was really glad to see that we were able to sit in there,” Bailey said.

Matarazzo said there is a list of available bus drivers at the high school that they will use in case the primary school needs to be evacuated because of an impending tornado.

“Ninety percent of the bus drivers are coming from the high school,” he said. “They have the biggest number of staff members who have their CDLs. The building administrator monitors the weather that day. If he or she thinks it might be possible there are tornadoes, he has a plan in place for bus drivers.”

The school emergency management team consists of Bailey, Jeannie Holt, Matarazzo, Wilson, Holly Dewey, Ross Moore, Amanda Rather, Kathy Halford, Sue Roedel, Malcolm Cole, Katrina Sturba, Mark Hobson, Andrew Duncan, Chad Sparks and Jeffery Stinson.

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