I am responding to the discussions that have been posted about the current emergency evacuation plan for the eighth grade special needs students at Salisbury Middle School. I am the parent of one of the students. I would like to share my discussions and experience with the school’s administration and the BOE related to this matter.
There are currently three eighth grade students at Salisbury Middle School that use a wheelchair and/or walkers for navigation around school. The children’s current eighth grade core classes are located on the second floor of the building. The current emergency evacuation plan states that, in the case of a fire or other situation where students would need to exit the building, the three students will be taken to a rear stairwell which will serve as an area of refuge until fire department rescue.
Discussion about a plan for the safe and compassionate evacuation of our children is not a recent issue. This matter has been discussed on numerous occasions for over two years with administration personnel at the school and BOE personnel at supervisory levels. The last discussion about this matter was on May 24, 2012, where I was told “we are going to have the Salisbury Fire Department come over and do some training for our staff to look at issues with (pause) if we should have a fire in the building. The building is ADA certified so basically what we have been told by them is that what we would do if we had any student upstairs would be that they would go to the far window and that’s where the firefighters would get them out of the school…but what we are going to do is we’re going to have the Salisbury Fire Department, that’s right over here, come over and do some training for our staff in the fall”. This quote is taken from the transcription of the taped conversation, in my possession, of the May 24, 2012 meeting. This meeting was also taped by the school’s administration so the BOE has a record of the meeting conversation as well.
At the same meeting, I was also told that the fire company would come in August to check out the plan but that administration planned to have preliminary contact with the fire company before August. I was also invited to attend the August meeting with the fire department and was told that I would be contacted during the summer about the date and time. I was not contacted about a meeting and sent an inquiry email on August 21. I later learned that a meeting had been scheduled with the fire department, perhaps spurred by my August 21 email, for Monday, August 27, one day before school started for the eighth grade students. During a conversation on
Tuesday, August 28, I was told by the BOE Safe Schools Coordinator that the window
evacuation plan, discussed at the May 24, 2012, meeting had not approved by the fire
department. This leads me to believe that a discussion about an evacuation plan had never taken place with the fire department prior to the May 24 meeting. On May 24, I was told about the approved “window” evacuation plan but this plan was not approved by them at the meeting on August 27. The current “area of refuge” plan was apparently devised on Monday, August 27. No staff training has occurred or has been planned as of Friday, August 31. Two-way radios have not been distributed. Four days of school have elapsed.
Not only is a fail-safe evacuation plan needed immediately for the current disabled eighth grade students but for the disabled students that will follow in the coming years. There are currently disabled students in attendance at Salisbury Middle School in the sixth and seventh grades. These children will need a safe exit from the building in an emergency when they reach eighth grade. A permanent fail-safe alternative plan to the “area of refuge” plan was introduced at the parent meeting which took place on Thursday, August 30.
There are approximately 300 students in the school’s seventh grade class and 300 students in the school’s eighth grade class. Each class is assigned to a class team comprised of 150 students. Each class team of 150 students attends classes and outside events separate from the other class team. Each class team uses half of the classrooms on each floor. There are seven classrooms used by each team for their core classes. It was suggested that the seven classrooms on the second floor, currently being used by the eighth grade team which include the three
wheelchair/walker bound students, be switched with the identical seven classrooms located on the first floor of the building, currently used by a seventh grade team. The school has four emergency exits on the current first floor seventh grade wing. There are two emergency exits on the current second floor eighth grade wing.
Although administration and BOE have not taken the time to discuss this option with us, logistics of a classroom move at this time may be cited as problematic. We suggest that 1-2 classrooms are moved over the coming weekends. If moving costs are a deterrent to administration/BOE approval, volunteers will be on hand to assist with the move. How many volunteers are needed? If volunteer injury issues are a problem, injury waivers will be signed. In brief, class schedules can be changed by students from “E235” to “E135”, etc. or “E135” to “E235’, etc. Lockers can be switched to the identical location on the other floor.
All of this is an inconvenience to the students. It is a matter of safety for the current eighth grade disabled students and those disabled students that will follow in the coming years. The second floor evacuation plan for the wheelchair/walker bound students should have been addressed before the start of school. The “area of refuge” plan is a quickly devised plan, it is not fail-safe, and it is cold hearted.
Thank you to those who have shown their support for the re-location of my son and his disabled friends to the first floor of the building. Please stand with us as we continue our efforts to urge the administration and the BOE to make the right decision to institute a fail-safe evacuation plan for our special children.