I was scheduled to do teacher observations at Hilton Head Island High School on Feb. 25, and I arrived with the fire trucks. The students had already been evacuated and were proceeding to the back of the building. No one was running or trying to get into a car to leave -- everyone calmly filed into the stadium and sat in the bleachers.
Principal Amanda O'Nan came into the stadium and asked the faculty members to meet her at the edge of the field. She updated them regarding the cause and extent of the fire and informed them she would be making announcements about schedule changes just as soon as they returned to the building.
She then proceeded to the press box where she explained to the students what had happened and told them she anticipated their being back in the building in about an hour. They were assured that they would not return until she was positive there would be no threat to their safety.
Approximately one hour after that announcement, O'Nan returned to the microphone and gave instructions for re-entering the building. Students were dismissed by class, and they returned to the building in an orderly fashion.
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The behavior of the students and their response to the situation did not happen by accident. This positive learning climate, developed over time via high expectations and a mutual respect between staff and students, resulted in a positive conclusion to a potentially dangerous situation.