Schools practice ‘just in case’

LIHU’E — More than 900 students and staff from Wilcox Elementary School evacuated to two “safe” destinations during a school-wide evacuation exercise yesterday.

“This is the first time,” said Annette Oda, one of the teachers at the school, as she joined crossing guards at the intersection of Hardy and Malae Streets.

Each student was asked to bring a cap and a bottle of water for the exercise, due to the length of time they would be outdoors, the crossing guards explained.

Although this directive was sent home and followed up with notices on the school’s display billboard and newspaper postings, there were some students who were trying to buy bottles of water from the school’s vending machines before the exercise started.

For the exercise, students in grades two through five evacuated through the school’s Lihu’e tennis courts entrance, crossed Hardy Street, and made their way down Puaole Street to Ho’olako Street. From there, they proceeded to the parking lot used for overflow parking outside Vidinha Stadium.

Students in special education, kindergarten and first grades utilized the entrance at the end of the Kaua’i War Memorial Convention Hall parking lot, traversed Hardy Street to Rice Street en route to Kalena Park, a site that school leaders felt also met the quarter-mile-distance requirement, and would be less strenuous on the students.

Kaua’i Police Department officers and a representative from the Kaua’i Fire Department were on hand to help coordinate the exercise that is now part of school officials’ annual requirements.

Similar school-wide evacuation exercises have been taking place at schools around the island. As one of the crossing guards noted, when Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School leaders conducted their exercise recently, the students passed en masse through the Puhi subdivision en route to their Puhi Park “safe” destination.

Kekaha School students, faculty, staff and administrators will hold their exercise on Monday, and Kalaheo School officials will conduct their exercise on Tuesday.

Kaua’i Police Department officers will be assisting school leaders with traffic control during these exercises as well.

  • Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, may be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253)

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