The shootings in Columbia’s Park DeVille neighborhood occurred as students were arriving at nearby Smithton Middle School, where the school day begins at 7:50 a.m.
Teachers and staff at Smithton worked to quickly get children off buses and to a secure location inside the school, said Jacque Cowherd, deputy superintendent of Columbia Public Schools.
Smithton was locked down from about 7:40 to 8 a.m., Cowherd said. During a lockdown, students are moved away from windows and doors, all the doors to the building are secured, and entering and exiting the building is restricted.
“Every school has emergency plans, and the good news is that the plans work,” Cowherd said. “Everybody did what they were supposed to do, and kids were safe.”
Paxton Keeley Elementary School was on lockdown from about 7:45 to 8:20 a.m., said Principal Elaine Hassemer. At the time, students were arriving for early-morning extracurricular activities, such as choir.
School officials locked and monitored the doors and moved about 75 children who were there at the time to a secure location.
“Children don’t arrive until 8:30, so by the time we opened, it was taken care of,” Hassemer said. “That’s exactly why we have safety precautions and procedures.”
Traffic in the area was backed up because of barricades near the crime scene. About 10 school buses were rerouted to the Wal-Mart parking lot on Stadium Boulevard.
Julia Stanley, a seventh-grade student at Smithton, lives next door to the yard where the shootings occurred. Stanley said she left for school at 7:20 a.m., 10 minutes before the shootings took place. After the lockdown, she rode a bus to a field trip in the morning and noticed the caution tape near her home. Stanley used her cell phone to call her mother.
“I was nervous because I didn’t know if anything had to do with my mom or my sister,” Julia Stanley said.