Yesterday at the middle school lights and all communication went out. There was no way to communicate, it was dark, and there was no air. A transformer in the neighborhood blew out. The possibility of chaos was high as the school was finishing C Lunch with about 300 more students needing to be fed.
The principal gathered her team and stated for everyone to grab their cell phone, turn the volume up, and she’ll be communicating with them through GroupMe. Next, she ordered teachers to order all student’s cell phones to be turned off to avoid parents panicking as we assessed the situation. After, 10 minutes with the district officials, energy company, and chief of police and fire department the decision was made to release students early.
It was 1:10 pm and early dismissal was in 35 minutes (1:45 pm). 300 students still needed to eat and the dismissal plan had to be adjusted. We had minimal time to plan. First, the principal ordered D’s lunch to come to the cafeteria ready to be dismissed. Secondly, she met with her team and decided to stagger the classrooms on one floor (there are three floors) at a time instead of bus riders, car riders, and walkers.
Things became very interesting when the message went out to parents that there will be an early dismissal. Parents began arriving immediately in multitudes as the buses pulled up. At least 100 parents were in the front office demanding their child be released immediately. However, there was a problem…there was no intercom system. No problem, the principal sent a text message to teachers telling all students to turn on their cell phones. Following, parents were asked to line up, call their child, and wait for office staff and volunteers to get to them so the teacher can receive the message “the administrator has dismissed __ (child’s name) please send them to the office for dismissal. About 50 kids were dismissed in less than 10 minutes the office was clearing out. It was now 1:43. The principal and Chief of Police ordered all parents to return to their car, text their children their location in the carpool line, and wait in the car as students will be dismissed in less than five minutes. The parents followed instructions and returned to their cars.
The dismissal was staggered and over 1300 students exited the building in 10 minutes. Once the building was clear the staff was asked to go outside to assist with bus duty, car riders, and those who were walking home. At 2:45 all but 10 students remained as the principal applauded the teachers and staff on the job well done before everyone was dismissed for their four-day weekend. Yesterday I saw a well-executed display of the power of teamwork, collaboration, and collective commitment in a very challenging situation. It was an awesome sight to see.
If you’re a principal, do you have a plan for when there’s no power, no communication, and hundreds of parents are demanding to pick up their child/children? If not, here’s an example of one.