Parents were shocked that a fire drill took place at a Ripon, Wis., school on Tuesday, despite the subzero temperatures.
The Midwest is in a deadly arctic deep freeze, which has caused numerous schools to shut down, as well as the U.S. Postal Service to suspend mail delivery. Regardless, the required monthly drill went on as planned at Barlow Park Elementary School, and parents are less than pleased.
Vince King, a parent of a kindergartner at the school, told Green Bay, Wis., news outlet WLUK, “As parents, we trust schools to put our kids’ safety at number one and, as of today’s [incident], I just feel some of that wasn’t met.”
Another parent, Stephanie Neuman, whose child is a second grader at the school, witnessed parents drop off students who were wearing just blue jeans and a jacket. “Their parents sent them thinking they’re not going to be going outside today,” she told the news outlet. “We’re sending children, age 5 to 8, out in this stuff and, whether it was 10 seconds or 10 minutes, it’s still not OK.”
On Tuesday, temperatures in the area were recorded at minus 2°F, with wind chills entering minus 24°F. The news outlet noted that, according to the National Weather Service, a wind chill of minus 25°F can freeze skin within 15 minutes.
“It’s always been nothing but positive,” King said, defending the school. “The teachers are great, and I have nothing but positive things to say but, today, it just kind of gives it a black eye.”
According to Wisconsin state law, schools must conduct a fire drill monthly. However, there is an exception, which King found after reaching out to his local state representative.
“There is currently an option to waive that monthly fire drill in the case of inclement weather,” state Rep. Joan Ballweg told the news outlet.
Principal Tanya Sanderfoot released this statement to the news outlet: “An abbreviated fire drill was held today, January 29, 2019 at Barlow Park Elementary and Journey Charter Schools at the start of the school day. Teachers were notified this morning prior to the start of school to have their kids remain bundled up in their winter clothes at arrival so they were prepared for a very quick fire drill. Being a relatively new principal, I was not aware of the statute that provides an exemption from monthly fire drills due to inclement weather so was concerned with being compliant for our monthly fire drill. I am now aware of the exemption and hope this helps all principals be aware that there is an exemption. I did receive some calls from parents and sent out a message right away so they would know all students had full winter clothing on for the drill and that I wish I would have canceled the planned drill.”
King is hopeful that all districts in the state will become aware of the exemption “so they don’t put kids in these elements again.”
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