SES students and staff take a walk for safety

The entire SES student body flows from their campus to their assembly area on Panzer Kaserne during a semi-annual school evacuation drill, April 12. Photo by Bardia Khajenoori, USAG Stuttgart Public Affairs

by John Reese

USAG Stuttgart Public Affairs

The student body of Stuttgart Elementary School got a break from classes to participate in a semi-annual evacuation drill, April 12.

At 9 a.m. sharp, school doors opened and two streams of children merged into one long river of students, flowing through the tunnel under Panzer Strasse, across streets and into their designated assembly point on Panzer Kaserne. The hundreds of children moved in an orderly fashion, taking the drill seriously yet happy to enjoy the mild, sunny morning’s walk. The assembly point was about a quarter of a mile from their classrooms.

SES students follow the leader during a school evacutation drill, April 12. Photo by John Reese, USAG Stuttgart Public Affairs

The object of the drill is to keep the children and staff safe, said Joe Holder, school liaison officer.

“We have to practice these at least twice per year,” Holder said.  “Today’s drill involves just the elementary school, but in real life, both schools (Stuttgart High School is adjacent to SES) would evacuate at the same time.”

Drills such as this one are practiced for any contingency that may require evacuating the school.

A SES teacher leads the first class of students out of the school toward their assembly point. Photo by John Reese, USAG Stuttgart Public Affairs

As part of the drill, teachers leading their classes carried boxes of books, attendance records and other necessary items some students required, such as medicines. Other teachers and some administrative staff donned bright reflective safety vests to shepherd the children toward their endpoint.

Armed with a walkie-talkie and a crossing guard’s stop sign, Principal Sonja Rodriguez, SES, brought up the rear of line.

“Okay, our students cleared the school and were all in the tunnel by 9:08 a.m., eight minutes after we started the drill” she said, checking her watch after receiving a radioed message confirming all of the children had left campus and were at or on their way to the assembly point. “The next step is to account for everyone; once we account for everyone, we are on our way back to school.”

A river of SES students flows through the tunnel under Panzer Strasse. All of the children had passed through the tunnel within eight minutes of the beginning of the evacuation drill. Photo by Bardia Khajenoori, USAG Stuttgart Public Affairs