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USD 501 schools take part in statewide tornado drill, differently this year

Published: Mar. 2, 2021 at 6:17 PM CST
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Several area schools took time out of class to prepare for a tornado to kick off severe weather awareness week.

Students at Topeka’s McCarter Elementary School joined in the statewide tornado drill to prepare for any possible severe weather.

But, instead of the whole school taking cover at once, each grade took turns to keep up their covid precautions.

After Students at McCarter Elementary School heard the siren, they took off.

“We just wanna make sure that they’re prepared and also, that they’re not frightened when they hear the siren go off,” the Principal at McCarter Elementary School, Kathy Cooney said.

They walked quickly and quietly to the school’s gym, which doubles as a FEMA-approved storm shelter.

“For our fifth graders and fourth graders, third graders it’s very easy, but for our kindergartners and the second graders, sometimes they get a little mixed up between what’s a tornado drill and what’s a fire drill and where they need to go?” Cooney emphasized.

This year’s tornado drill was a little different due to the pandemic.

“In order to remain socially distant and we had to practice this drill today one grade level at a time because we just can’t fit everybody in here at 6 feet apart,” Cooney explained. “We have spots on the floor that are 6 feet apart, and that’s just for everybody’s safety. So, we asked them all to face one way, we try to get our traffic flow all moving in one direction this year.”

The tornado that hit Topeka West High School in 1988 is a reminder to always be prepared.

“If this were to happen during school hours, we would want to get the students in here as quickly as possible, so that they remain safe,” Cooney said. “We also talk to them and the teachers talk to them especially in the springtime about places that they would go if a tornado were to happen and they weren’t at school.”

They also remind parents sirens are a signal to stay put!

“I know that there have been times that the sirens have been going off and parents have wanted to come to pick up their children,” Cooney said. “We are advised to bring everybody into our building and not let people leave if the sirens are going off.”

Some students say they would be prepared if a real tornado would happen at school.

Fifth-grader at McCarter Elementary School, Evan Frost says, “I’d be scared but I also follow the instructions.”

“I will be scared, but I would do what the teacher says and if somebody else is scared, I would try and help them calm down,” another fifth-grader, Harper Ribordy added.

All of Topeka Public Schools took part in a practice tornado drill on Tuesday.

USD 501 prepares its students for a tornado drill twice a year, one in March and one in September.

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