By Andy Sidel
When students walked into Legend this morning at 7:55 a.m., none of them knew that in two hours their school day would be cut short.
At 10:01 this morning, principal Corey Wise interrupted third hour classes with an announcement that Legend was going to be initiating the “Evacuation Drill.”
Legend administration was notified about a letter that was found in the main office that indicated a bomb threat. At that time, administration went back and found who was in the area and tried to determine if it was a legitimate threat or not. Since it was not 100 percent sure if it was legitimate or not, an evacuation drill was put into place.
“I did say drill for one reason. At that point I wasn’t sure if we were going to have to evacuate and move students from the football field,” Wise said. “If you say ‘bomb threat’, texts, parents, everything complicates the number of people on campus. Keeping it as simple as possible helps everyone trying to resolve the situation.”
According to an administrator, a male student was taken from the school this afternoon to the Parker Police Station for questioning.
On its Facebook and Twitter pages, Parker Police Department reported that they are continuing to investigate the bomb threat and confirmed that they had identified a person of interest.
In the event of an evacuation, students, teachers, and administration are asked to proceed to the football field and line up in the teacher-designated spots.
By the time everyone was on the field, Parker Police, Parker Fire Department, Legend security, and Douglas County School District (DCSD) security had set up and closed all access to the school grounds.
“When I saw the different branches of public safety, I knew something was incredibly wrong,” junior Jack Perkins said. “There wouldn’t have been that many different security personnel and vehicles if it was just a drill. It seems like they responded very quickly and took care of the situation.”
By 10:38 a.m. Legend administration was moving large groups of students up the hill to Cimarron Middle School where jacket-less students and staff were relieved to get out of the cold, as clouds formed and it had started to drizzle.
“All of the students and some teachers really thought it was a drill and nothing real. Nobody knew what was going on until we got to the football field. Legend handled it really well and it took almost no time to move 2000+ students out of the school,” sophomore Jared Andresen said.
Cimarron opened the doors and the roughly 2000 students and faculty entered the gym and sat down. Once everyone was in the gym and settled down, assistant principal Jason Jacob quieted everyone and explained how the dismissal of students would work. Over the next hour, students who drove themselves, walked, or took the bus to school were dismissed.
However, at this time only the South (lower) parking lot had been cleared by three bomb dogs. Students who park in the Upper (East) lot had to wait until the early afternoon to retrieve their vehicles.
Students who were being picked up at Cimarron by parents were required to have a text message from their parents or have their parents on the phone so school personnel could safely release them.
Around 12:10 p.m. the remaining students and faculty were taken from Cimarron to Legend by bus. Upon arrival, they were greeted by Wise and told how well everyone handled the situation.
“I’m mad. I’m embarrassed [that this happened at Legend]. But I’m proud. The only thing that matters is that everyone is safe and nobody was harmed. There was no damage done and that is something to be thankful for,” Wise said in the commons.
Teachers returned to their classrooms, only to see folders and papers spread out on desks as students had left them hours before.
“It looked like a ghost town in my classroom when I went back in after the school was cleared. It was a very odd feeling. I’m just glad I got my phone and iPad back for the weekend,” said a student who wished to remain anonymous.
Superintendent Elizabeth Fagen, along with Assistant Superintendent Dan McMinimee, was at Legend when the staff and remaining students returned from Cimarron. Fagen spoke with Wise, the Parker Police, and the Legend and DCSD security teams.
“This morning I was immediately notified and we got our teams activated and on site. Legend handled this superbly, even with the weather and the number of people. There is a lot of training and drills to prepare for this. Everything I’ve heard that Legend did was very positive and right on the money. We learn from every single event so we can continually improve on what needs to be done,” Fagen said.
At roughly 1 p.m., teachers and administration, as well as Parker Police and the DCSD security personnel, met in the theatre to have a debriefing about the events of the day and the investigation that will take place over the next few weeks. It was decided that students could return today from 2 to 4 p.m. and tomorrow, Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. to gather their belongings.
According to social studies teacher and head swim coach Karen Johnson, “I did not know what was going on. It went smoothly considering there are 2000 students. There is always room for improvement, specifically in the organization of the evacuation procedure. I even forgot my phone in the classroom!”
Many students could be overheard congratulating the administration and safety personnel for doing a tremendous job in the evacuation and protecting everyone. Similar sentiments were shared on Twitter.
“The drill made me think it was a routine thing. It seemed like a strange time to do it but I didn’t think anything of it,” senior Joe Grisso said. “Legend and the police handled it extremely well. It is always difficult to evacuate a large number of people in a short amount of time. The process worked very well. This is exactly what needed to be done.”