Church offers shelter during SD 227 emergencies, threats
By Sarah Zylstra Correspondent October 18, 2013 9:32PM
Updated: November 21, 2013 6:53AM
New Faith Baptist Church in Matteson likely will be the new refuge for any school evacuations in Rich Township High School District 227, school board president Cheryl Coleman said.
Sixteen students face charges stemming from a Sept. 30 brawl at Rich South High School, which occurred after students from Rich Central in Olympia Fields were evacuated during a bomb threat and bused to the Richton Park school, where a fire alarm was pulled as a prank.
“They reached out to us,” Coleman said of church leaders. “I was excited. I felt relief because over the past few years we never had a place big enough to house all of the children.”
The church can seat 2,500, which is more than enough for any of the district’s three high schools. Rich Central has the highest enrollment at about 1,400.
The church, 25 Central Ave., would be ideal for emergency use, with a large area to house students and a separate hall where they could be released to parents, Coleman said. Special needs students could be housed together in a classroom, with rooms nearby for school nurses, she said.
Before District 227 reaches an agreement with New Faith, though, it needs to improve its emergency evacuation plan, Coleman said, adding that administrators are working to clarify expectations for students and teachers.
Teachers will learn when emergency buses will be called, how they’ll be loaded and how to take attendance of the 20 to 25 students in their care, according to Coleman. Once that’s done, the schools will practice evacuating students to the football fields, she said.
School administrators will then practice evacuating to New Faith, Coleman said, and everything should be complete within three weeks.
“We offer our sincere apologies to the families affected by the (Sept. 30) event, and we’re working diligently to resolve the matter to make it doesn’t happen again,” she said.