Hood River County School District buildings in Hood River, and Horizon Christian School, went into the district’s second lockdown in memory Thursday about 45 minutes after the U.S. Bank robbery occurred on the Heights.
Some Heights businesses went into lockdown, as did Providence Down Manor.
A State Police helicopter circled the Heights neighborhood around May Street School, located six blocks northeast of U.S. Bank.
HRCSD Supt. Dan Goldman said that it was the schools’ goal to “keep things as close to normal as possible, under the circumstances.”
“Our teaching staff is so good about it; they just keep business as usual,” said Horizon Supt. Ken Block, who said their lockdown started at about 10:40 a.m. Horizon is located a half-mile east of the bank.
Horizon and May Street are both located within a few blocks of the Indian Creek ravine, a heavily wooded area near the bank, where police focused much of their search Thursday morning.
The public schools involved were May Street, Westside, Hood River Middle School and Hood River Valley High School, along with the District Office and Coe Primary Building, located three blocks north of May Street School.
Goldman and Administrative Assistant Terri Martz spoke to patrons and staff members who were outside the District building, and told them that no one was allowed in or out.
At May Street School, a group of parents gathered in front of the school starting at about 11 a.m., just before lunch hour, when many parents do typically visit. The doors were locked and parents traded information from what they had gathered on Facebook pages including the Hood River News.
Shayla Fleischer said she had stopped at Rosauers on the way to school to bring a birthday cookie to one of her children, and had intended to get cash at the store but forgot. She thought to stop at U.S. Bank on the way to May Street and had pulled to the curb but decided to continue to the school, when she saw a police car speed away, lights flashing.
She called 9-1-1, at the urging of friends, to report that she had seen a man wearing what appeared to be a wig, walking on 13th a few blocks east of the bank about a half-hour earlier.
“I had no idea at the time but I saw this guy and thought he looked really strange in the wig,” Fleischer said.
Among the parents in front of May Street was Kelly Croke of Hood River, who was on her way to school with her child’s lunch when she heard the news about the robbery.
“I didn’t know if I could get in but I decided to come up anyway,” she said.
“I’m not really concerned,” Croke said. “I know the kids are safe.”
Principal Kelly Beard came out at 11:15 to inform the parents that the kids were safe and that plans were under way to make sure everyone got lunch.
He asked the adults to move across the street because of aerial surveillance of the school
Goldman described the lockdown as technically a lock-in, where every classroom is shut down, and no one comes in any door, and parents who are inside must stay in.
At about 11:45, information from police was such that officials felt it would be safe to let May Street and Westside kids go to lunch, because those schools’ lunchrooms are inside, and there are relatively few access points.
Access to the Hood River Valley High School lunchroom requires outside access, and the high school has multiple entrances and outbuildings such as the southwest portables and FFA and engineering areas.
“Things went well, all things considered,” said HRVHS Principal Rich Polkinghorn. “Staff and the students handled it very professionally. The kids got a little restless after awhile, but we told them ‘our first priority is keeping you safe,’ and that was the message.”
Sean Spellecy of New Dawn, Horizon’s security firm, was at the school and he walked the perimeter with Block, given the school’s proximity to Indian Creek ravine.
“Everything went remarkably well,” said HRMS Principal Brent Emmons.
“Walking the halls that first hour of the lockdown was like being in the school in a weekend; everything was really quiet. But, the building is old and the day was warm and the kids started to get hot and hungry.”
When law enforcement arrived later in the morning, the administration devised a rotating system where kids were released for bathroom breaks and for lunch, starting with the sixth-graders, who are housed in the same building as the cafeteria. Seventh- and eighth-graders traveled to the cafeteria under the watch of a county deputy.
“We lost about two instructional periods, and by the end of the day you could see that the kids were just really tired, understandably,” Emmons said. Assistant Principal Gus Hedberg, counselor Micah Francesconi and Emmons checked in which as many kids as possible once lockdown was over.
“Some of the kids had questions about (the incident and lockdown) but most reported they were doing well,” Emmons said, adding that earlier lockdown drills paid off. He said Wednesday’s experience will be subject of a review by the school safety committee, to improve response in future incidents.