BY TOM DALTON
---- — SALEM — After last year’s tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, Salem police conducted lockdown drills at city schools.
Yesterday, Horace Mann Laboratory School went into lockdown for real after an 11:10 a.m. stabbing incident on the Salem State University campus. The 300-pupil elementary school is located on Loring Avenue on the edge of the main campus.
When campus police gave the order to “shelter in place,” Horace Mann teachers locked the doors to their classrooms, taped paper over door windows, turned off the lights and moved children to a corner of the rooms, according to Principal Kathryn Singh. One group of fourth-graders was in the school cafeteria waiting for lunch and stayed there with their teacher.
“We made sure everybody was accounted for,” the principal said.
An order was given that no one could enter or leave the building.
“I was able to do a walk around the building to make sure everything looked OK,” said Singh, who is in her first year at Horace Mann. “You couldn’t even tell there were people in the building.”
Inside the classrooms, students remained quiet as teachers explained what was happening.
“One thing we always tell teachers is to be calm and only give the information that is really necessary,” Singh said.
The principal sent messages to parents in English and Spanish to let them know the school was in lockdown and that their children were safe.
Near dismissal, Singh contacted parents again. Dismissal was done more slowly than usual, one bus at a time, and under the watchful eyes of police. As they left, the children were told that they had done an “excellent job,” Singh said.
“Every kid that walked out was holding hands with an adult,” she said.
Superintendent Stephen Russell kept in contact with Horace Mann during the day. Salem State President Patricia Meservey stopped by after dismissal.
After a trying day, the principal said she is proud of her students and staff.
“We did good,” Singh said.
Tom Dalton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.