2018-10-01 / Shorts

Campus Tour

Mount Nittany Middle Schoolers take a walk around the block to get the lay of the land — just in case.
Chris Rosenblum | Photos by Nabil K. Mark

School orientations usually cover interiors, but for the first time this fall, Mount Nittany Middle School students received a different kind of tour.

Shortly after the year began, faculty led groups around the perimeter of the large campus that contains the middle school, Mount Nittany Elementary School and Panorama Village Administrative Center. As tour guides do, the teachers noted points of interest along the way — all just in case.

The goal was to explore the environment bordering the school — an innovative safety precaution principal Brian Ishler and assistant principal Alex Raup devised this summer in support of the Run, Hide, Fight protocol, the national standard for responding to an emergency.

“Alex and I had a conversation; we felt that we have some kids who get off the bus, come in the building and don’t know what’s around,” Ishler says. “That’s really why we did it, so if by chance we needed to evacuate quickly, they would know where to go and what’s out there.”

On a warm fall day, teacher Scott Given starts his walk for sixth-graders by explaining about Run, Hide, Fight.

“Once you get out, what do you do? You just come out of the doors and stand there?” he says. “You’re going to run and, if necessary, you’re going to hide. But where do you run to? Well, today, we’re going to take you on a tour. We want you to know what surrounds our campus here.”

The first stop is a grassy slope at the back of the property.

“Right here, we’ve got some thick greenery,” Given says, gesturing to a tangle of bushes. “If you get through this, are you still visible from the school? No. So this might be a good place for you to run to and run through.”

Next, he stops his group beside a Little League baseball field and directs attention to a walkway.

“There’s a neighborhood right through here,” he says. “There’s a lot of people right through here, a lot of houses. This is a good way to get safe.”

At Panorama Village, Given tells students that district administrators and other adults would be ready to help in the event of a crisis at Mount Nittany. “If you came in this direction, you’ll see people,” he says.

As the group circles back to school, pausing a few more times, Given points out houses, fences, woods and other features that could lie in the path of possible escapes. Backyards become potential havens. A residential road presents another avenue, though Given urges caution.

Eighth-grader Cooper Albert took a similar stroll and found it useful.

“It was definitely a benefit because it was good to know what our surrounding area is and be able to see that if anything were to happen in our school, we would know exactly what to do and where to go,” he says.

Ishler was so pleased with the walks, a first for the school district, that he plans on bringing them back next fall. Other schools could follow suit in the future as part of the district’s commitment to security.
In the meantime, Mount Nittany students can now say they’ve been around the block — and are better prepared because of the exercise.

“We’ve been very blessed,” Given replies to a student asking if the school has ever faced a Run, Hide, Fight crisis. “It’s not an issue we’ve had to handle, but we want you to be aware.” •SCM

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