As many of you know, today was a day of unexpected events at RHP! At just after 8:30, just as kids were being dropped off, our fire alarms started going off! We do periodic fire drills throughout the year, so the kids know what to do: no talking, no sounds at all, stop what you are doing and go right to the walking rings and take any available ring, all as fast as possible. Teachers make sure everyone gets outside. This was the first time we had an unplanned event like this happen—when we do drills, we always tell the kids, “it’s just a drill, just for practice, there is no fire” but this time, although there was no sign of danger, we didn’t know what was wrong, so it was the real thing. When we have to evacuate our building, we cross the street at Summit and wait by the Summit Street Garden, where we do another count. We crossed the street and waited. Because school had just begun, kids were still arriving with parents and caregivers. We all watched as the fire department arrived. We weren’t sure yet what had happened, or if we were going to be able to go back to school. We learned that a pipe had burst elsewhere in the building, and that RHP was safe, so luckily, teachers were able to go back and grab the kids’ coats while we waited. The fire department cleared us to go back inside, and school resumed as usual: except we had a lot to talk about!
Everyone was curious about what had happened, and so most of our morning meeting time was spent discussing the events. The loud sound and the sudden disruption of their day can be unsettling and even scary, and so we wanted to make sure we all got a chance to talk about what had happened, and why. In the Purple Room, we talked about the weather, and how cold it has been outside, and how when temperatures are so low, sometimes pipes break. Kids had questions about why a fire alarm might go off when there is no fire, so we talked about how an alarm might sound if there is any kind of danger, and that the alarm, although it is loud and can be scary, keeps us safe because it tells us if we need to leave the school. One child said, “that never happened at my house,” and others chimed in. We then talked about how in all of our houses we also have fire alarms, and how they look different from our school alarms, but serve the same purpose. In the Green Room, kids were interested in where the pipe was, and some thought it might be in the basement. They were intrigued with the idea that there were parts of the building they’d never seen, and speculated what these might look like (the pipe was actually in the garage of our building, right next to RHP).
Then, the alarm went off… again. This was during morning work time, and so everyone had arrived. The whole school—kids working in the Green, Purple, and Blue Rooms—had to evacuate again. This was kind of scary for some children, as most of them hadn’t yet arrived when the first one started ringing. Such a sudden and abrupt disruption of the routines they’ve so consciously internalized during the last few months can be upsetting for them. This time, all the kids had to quickly exit the school without coats, and from their point of view, it was a long wait in the cold. We all huddled together and waited for a word: it turned out the alarm had been set off when the water was being turned back on.
Given the circumstances, the kids did really well and we were very proud of everyone’s ability to listen to directions and do exactly what we practiced during our drills. Thank you to everyone for their cooperation and understanding during the confusion of the morning.
The evacuations were a topic of spirited conversation all day. During lunch, kids went over the events together. Everyone was concerned that it would happen again, which was valid, as it had. Kids were saying, “I hope it doesn’t go off during nap time!” In the Purple Room, many kids drew about their experience in their daily picture journals, and during afternoon work time in the Blue Room, many kids chose to draw firefighters, water, and other related pictures in their sketchbooks.
That was our day!
Two final notes: please remember, we go outside as often as possible, often in weather below freezing, with snow on the ground. Please send your kids to school in or with appropriate clothes, especially hats and shoes. We want everyone to be able to enjoy outdoor time! Thank you!
Also: An RHP family is missing a brown scarf that might have accidentally gone home with another child; please look out for it!