Students and staff were forced to evacuate Rossland Summit School (RSS) at around 12 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 23.
According to a letter by school principle David DeRosa, lights inside started to flicker and the building was evacuated after janitors smelled smoke coming from the school’s basement.
People quickly gathered in their learning groups outside on the school’s field but were eventually relocated to the Rossland Arena.
“Within 15 minutes, city staff had the arena ready to go once we decided we would dismiss early from there,” said Derosa.
“City staff — who were at the area wearing high-visibility vests, masks and gloves — met and greeted students and helped to keep everyone physically distanced while they were there.”
Students were dismissed for the day around 2:45 p.m. and either walked home, took a bus home or had their parents pick them up.
At 3:30 p.m., School District 20 maintenance staff confirmed that the smoke came from the school’s basement and was caused by a wire that became overheated around an HVAC system.
Staff worked to replace the damaged parts and confirmed that the HVAC system was operational and that the school was safe for occupancy.
DeRosa confirmed that different learning groups didn’t come in contact with one another during the evacuation.
“RSS staff have access to a huge playing field at the school,” said DeRosa.
“We were able to keep the learning groups — which is essentially two class division at the school — separate from one another during the evacuation.”
DeRosa was pleased around how smoothly the evacuation went, especially since staff and students hadn’t even performed their first fire drill of the year.
Derosa gives credit to everyone who helped out during the evacuation.
“Because of the current COVID-19 situation, we had a staggered lunch during the evacuation and our school supervisors at the time did an amazing job to help get everyone out of the building,” said DeRosa.
“I also want to thank our education assistants, teachers, custodians and all our staff yesterday because they did an amazing job keeping all our students safe.”
DeRosa said the students also showed incredible empathy by asking their teachers after the evacuation if their other classmates were alright.
SD20 officials have confirmed a case of COVID-19 at the school and Interior Health representatives have been in contact with any members of the school that may have been exposed to the virus.