A violent outburst in the lobby of a York City school Thursday afternoon triggered a lockdown procedure that students and staff have practiced many times.
About 60 students and 20 staff members were inside Phineas Davis K-8 when the school's principal announced the lockdown over the building's intercom system.
Teachers checked the hallways for students. Anyone wandering was quickly ushered into a room, and then everyone moved away from the door.
As in fire drills, students and staff practice the lockdown procedure frequently, district Superintendent Eric Holmes said.
On Thursday, in the midst of an after-school tutoring program, the lockdown "worked exactly the way it was supposed to work," Holmes said.
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Fortunately, the threat — described by 911 dispatchers as a "shots fired" call — never moved beyond the school's front lobby. And, it turns out, there never was a gun, city officials confirmed at a press conference hours later,
But the incident provides an opportunity for school and police officials to review and improve a security procedure that, ideally, is never needed.
Holmes said he and police officials will have that conversation in the coming days.
"We know, if anything should happen, that we have trained and planned to do everything we can to keep children safe," Holmes said. "Even though we believe things worked out well here, there's always areas that you can improve."
Waleska Vega, whose daughter attends Davis, was in the building when she heard the school's principal announce the lockdown.
"Some of these kids were having panic attacks in there. They were shaken," Vega said. "It was a good thing that I was there. I was just so blessed to be there with my own child. I at least could calm her down."
Vega said she prayed with students, reassuring them that "God's with us."
It was a scary situation for everyone, Vega said, adding that she believes the principal "did the best that she could."
York City Police Chief Wes Kahley said at the press conference Thursday night that the district's staff was "amazing."
"The security system at Davis worked," he said. "The kids were well taken care of by their teachers."
Holmes also praised the district's staff and the police officers who responded to Davis. York City Police and members of the district's own police department "worked hand in hand," Holmes said.
After the lockdown was lifted, staff members moved students into the school's auditorium, where they were given a brief explanation and told "that we needed to take them to another building, where they would be picked up by their parents," Holmes said.
The district established a "reunification" spot at Alexander Goode K-8, where two buses delivered the Davis students to their parents shortly before 6 p.m.
"The teachers did a wonderful job, and our security staff did a wonderful job of calming the students," Holmes said.
The district will hold classes Friday. Counseling services will be available to any student or staff member who needs it, and the district will address the incident with the Davis student body, Holmes said.
Additional police officers will also be assigned to each of the district's schools Friday, he said.
"We want the community to know that the district strives to provide a safe environment for our children," he said.
— Reach Erin James at email@example.com.