May 20, 2019 — Siuslaw Elementary School held an unplanned fire drill on Monday morning after a fire was discovered in the south girl’s bathroom before school started. A teacher was able to put out the fire and pull the fire alarm. Siuslaw Valley Fire and Rescue arrived within minutes.
“We did so well with evacuating students because this is what we train for,” said Siuslaw Elementary Principal Mike Harklerode.
According to the principal, teachers hadn’t yet taken attendance when the fire alarm sounded, which caused the biggest problem as every student needed to be accounted for.
“Everyone is safe,” Harklerode said. “We are out of the building today while the investigation is completed.”
The entire south building is closed to students for the day, causing classes to be held in the cafeteria. A robocall also went out to fourth- and fifth-grade families saying that their students could be picked up.
Siuslaw Valley Fire and Rescue will continue to investigate the cause of the fire with the help of Florence Police Department’s School Resource Officer (SRO) Brandon Bailey.
According to the Siuslaw Elementary School Facebook page, classrooms doubled up for the day, with fourth- and fifth-grade students attending class with the primary classrooms.
“I’d like to express my appreciation to all staff and students for their safe conduct while following procedures and for their flexibility today,” Harklerode said.
Several teachers said that while the day was unusual, students maintained great behavior even while sharing class space. Mrs. Stemberg and Mrs. Graham’s classes worked on a STEM project using, teamwork, math, problem solving skills and creativity to make geodesic structures out of newspaper and masking tape.
“Great learning experiences happened today for all students,” Harklerode added.
At the Siuslaw School Board Special Meeting that night, Siuslaw Superintendent Andy Grzeskowiak said that the SRO was “tracking down the culprits,” though the elementary school does not have surveillance cameras to aid the investigation.
“We’ll be back in regular operations (Tuesday),” Grzeskowiak said. “It was a small event. Kids handled it well, staff handled it really well, and we’ll find out who did it. They got lucky and will learn a little life lesson from this.”
In terms of repair work, most of that will be through the cleaning process, he added, saying that there is a dinner-plate sized scorch mark on the wall that will need to be painted and a new replacement towel dispenser installed, but that the biggest issue was the smell of burning plastic.