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New emergency plan for John Barsby students

School officials have designed a new emergency plan for John Barsby Secondary School students in light of the threat of the dams at Colliery Dam Park failing during a severe seismic or rainfall event.

John Barsby and the day care on site are in the middle of the floodplain should the dams collapse, Dale Versfelt, the district’s manager of occupational health and safety, told trustees at Wednesday’s board meeting.

Since receiving the news last month, district officials have modified the school’s emergency plans so that students will gather at the corner of Seventh and Howard streets after an earthquake. A drill held a couple weeks ago determined that it would take about 10 minutes for all students to gather in this location, said Versfelt.

If the dam breach is sudden, as opposed to a slow, growing breach, plans are to take everyone up to the second floor of the school because the water will arrive at the school faster than administrators would be able to evacuate people.

Georgia Avenue Elementary School is outside of the flooding area and would remain open as a community resource.

John Barsby staff have updated their grab and go bags to include enough supplies to take care of the students until the transportation department is able to take them to Beban Park, added Versfelt.

Jamie Brennan, school board chairman, said officials ordered the change in emergency procedure following a briefing with city staff in October.

“When the city told us about the danger, we basically said, ‘OK, get ready for a disaster,’” he said. “We’ve responded to it as best we can. It’s a matter of children’s lives being at risk. As far as we’re concerned, the sooner the dams come down the better.”

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