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Responding to Code Blue

Students in public and private schools in Potomac were reassured by some of the measures taken for safety in the wake of a series of sniper attacks that have left six dead and two wounded.

Montgomery County Public Schools operated under Code Blue restrictions on Thursday, Oct. 4, Friday, Oct. 5 and the following Monday and Tuesday, Oct. 7-8, in response to sniper shootings in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.

On Monday, a 13-year-old boy was shot as he entered his middle school in Prince George’s County, sending a shock wave through schools around the region when the shooting was linked to the sniper attacks.

Code Blue restrictions signify that an emergency or crisis situation exists at or near a county public school, and that all students must be accounted for and under supervision. While it does not necessarily signify a lockdown, public schools were in fact under lockdown on Thursday, and outdoor activities and sports were canceled on Thursday, Monday and Tuesday. Friday activities, including football games and other sports events, were conducted as scheduled.

Private schools in the area implemented similar responses.

“We are operating under a restricted access program,” said Bullis headmaster Thomas Farquhar. Two of Bullis’ three entrance gates have been barricaded, pedestrian movement through campus has been redirected, and faculty members have been placed aboard bus transportation within campus.

“Clearly today we hit a new level of concern,” said Farquhar on Monday, the day a middle school student was shot in Prince George’s County. “As big as anything was the fact that the perpetrator was actually shooting from a wooded area. That one piece of news added a level of anxiety.”

Potomac students took the changes at school in stride. High school students in particular gave their schools high marks for communication.

“You should be concerned, because of the randomness of it,” said Zach Rothstein, a senior at Wootton.

CHURCHILL SENIOR Lisa Weinstein had a different perspective on the Code Blue lockdown. She slept in on Thursday, and realized she was locked out after hearing the news at home.

“I wasn’t even able to go to school,” said Weinstein. “All the students knew what was happening, though.”

Weinstein’s Churchill classmate Aksel Yavalar was one of the many students on the inside.

“They announced it in the fourth period,” said Yavalar. “They did a good job of notifying us what was going on.”

“Dr. Newman, our principal, came on the P.A. system,” said Rothstein. On Monday, Newman announced the reason for the second Code Blue alert. “If she doesn’t say it, we’d find out anyway.”

“They actually didn’t tell us what happened” when the restrictions were first announced at Holton-Arms, said senior Katherine Keeley. “Some girls found it out on their laptops.”

BASED ON RESPONSES from parents and students, Bullis headmaster Farquhar says that there is a prevailing sense “that the parents have that the students are as safe at school as they are anywhere.”

“I feel safe indoors. Our school is being really strict with everything,” said Weinstein of Churchill. “I try not to fixate on it and not worry about it. There’s nothing you can do about it.”

Window blinds were closed in Weinstein’s classes at Churchill, and students were sent to get lunch hall by hall but to eat in designated rooms.

“I definitely haven’t been walking around with the mindset that it can’t happen to me,” said Bullis senior Patrick Coffey, while adding, “I personally feel safe at school because of the restrictions that are there.”