AC failure causes evacuation


Students leave school after evacuation several minutes after the dismissal bell. The AC system failed in the new building and the fire department was called.

Students wait outside after the building was evacuated during sixth period last Friday. The students exited the building efficiently.

Last Friday during sixth period, the New Building was evacuated. Toward the end of class, two teachers had smoke coming out of their air conditioning units (AC) and alerted administrators.

Math teacher Jessica Estep’s transformer had failed and began to smoke. Math teacher Rhonda Hudson’s room, which is directly below hers, started to fill with smoke, as well.

“I was concerned because the smoke (was an orange gray),” Estep said. “I know that it’s an old system, (but) it’d be great if we had more maintenance workers to better maintain the county.”

There was a work order on the air conditioner unit before school as it has been leaking, but there was a mistake in the repair process, causing the incident.

“(The maintenance workers) are spread thin and trying to cover many schools. It’d be great if we had more people, because the county has to take care of that (maintenance).” Estep said. “It’d be great if the county was able to have more staff to better serve all the schools.”

As soon as the smoke was visible, the building was evacuated by assistant principals Donnie Watkins and Kim Gilyard, and they called 911. This is protocol when smoke is seen in a building. At the time, Principal Ralph Kitley was in a meeting, but  hemade an announcement to delay the dismissal bell. 

“Of course it was the end of the day, which is never ideal, but we tried to control it as best we could,” Kitley said.

However, the building was evacuated class by class instead of simply pulling the fire alarm. 

“If we did pull the fire alarm, there would be 800 kids in the parking lot and since it was the end of 6 period, they would have tried to leave,” Watkins said. 

The smoke itself did not set off the alarm, so Watkins had the choice on how to successfully evacuate the building without prompting chaos in the parking lot with the fire department and student drivers.  

The building was evacuated quickly into the stadium area, but administrators believe it can be improved upon for possible future evacuations. 

“(The) students did a great job evacuating, but we learned a little from this,” Kitley said. “We need to be accountable for all our students and have better communication.”

This is the first occurrence of AC failure in the New Building to this extent. Unfortunately, Estep’s room is still without AC, even after maintenance worked on it for the rest of the evening.  

“It’s off right now to keep it from happening again, but there is a plan to fix it,” Watkins said.