Chilliwack students locked down in Science World

Two classes from Watson elementary were put in lockdown at Science World when police took down an alleged shooting suspect Tuesday.

The principal at Watson elementary school was still thanking the advances of technology Wednesday morning.

When Taryn Dixon first learned of the shootout outside Science World Tuesday, her first thought was of her students.

Are they safe?

With technology, she got the answer almost immediately.

“We were able to send text messages back and forth with our teachers who were there and confirm everyone was safe,” said Dixon, who was also informed of the situation by the bus driver on site.

“In this case, I thank heavens for technology.”

Science World was put in lockdown late Tuesday morning as Vancouver police took down an alleged shooting suspect outside the facility.

Two classes from Watson elementary, a Grade 4/5 split and a Grade 5 class, were on field trip at the popular education destination.

“We really didn’t know what was happening,” said Dixon, who first heard of it from a concerned parent.

“In that very first moment, our biggest concern was are the kids safe? What had they seen? What had they witnessed? Were they shaking in fear?”

They didn’t have time to dwell.

“All of a sudden our phone started ringing off the hook,” said Dixon. “We had to stay calm.”

A crisis action plan was put in place immediately. All parents were contacted informing them of what had happened, and that the facility was in lockdown, and they didn’t know when students would be released. A message was posted to the school’s website, and a letter was drawn up and sent home with students at the end of day. District trauma counsellors were also brought on site for both parents and students.

“There was no time to panic, and it would have served zero purpose to do so,” said Dixon. “We knew, of course, everybody would be worried, and what we really wanted was for people to have the best, accurate information we had rather than some of the panicked information.”

Science World was locked down for about two hours. Students were escorted out by police at 1:45 p.m.. They were originally scheduled to leave the facility at 2 p.m.

When they arrived back at Watson, students, with their parents, were debriefed by counsellors.

A counsellor was also at the school Wednesday.

“Our emergency procedures worked so well yesterday; I am just so proud of our district,” said Dixon. “You never really know how valuable these processes are until you use them.”