From the Principal:
Monday, February 11, 2013 6:35 AM


Dear Families of Lake Harriet,


On Jan. 31st Upper Campus evacuated our building. I am going to explain what happened with the building and the children. I am going to review safety procedures specific to parents. There was no fire, no one was injured, our building is fine and our boiler is sound and safe.


Upper Campus experienced a boiler malfunction. Although information stated a contained boiler ‘explosion’, that created a mental picture more dramatic than what actually occurred. We had a situation with moisture in the fuel line. This moisture caused the fuel to disperse in a form resulting in something similar to a car or truck “back firing” (modern automobile fuel injectors prevent this). Boilers are designed so that the front and rear doors will blow open as a safety measure to prevent pressure from building up in the fire box. If the doors blow open safety protocols are followed. The boiler fuel supply is shut down. There may be a school evacuation until the fire department says the site is safe. That is the pathway we followed on Jan. 31st.


This was not a fire drill, this was a real situation. It was an evacuation being carried out as a safety precaution with immediate child safety as a priority; that is why the students did not have time to get their jackets. The students did an excellent job, over 715 students and all staff evacuated the building in less than 2 minutes. In pleasant weather we would have waited outside until the fire department okayed students to return inside the building. Our normal evacuation plan is to walk to SW High. Unfortunately, we evacuated into sub-zero wind chill temperatures. I determined we would go to the neighborhood fire station where we could quickly walk to for shelter. Fire fighters opened the doors for us. School buses were in route to the fire station to transport students back to school and keep them out of the cold as much as possible.


The fire department arrived at the school and gave the okay for the students to return to the building. We began moving children by bus back to the school. A few buses mistakenly took children to SW High where Principal Smith welcomed the students until they were transported back to Upper Campus. The students were all brought into the gym where I explained to them what had happened. Then they went to their class rooms for attendance. This accounting for each child is a very essential piece. Some students left with adults and were unaccounted for.

The school district Emergency and Safety Management worked with us throughout the event. The MPS Facilities Department brought in crews to check over all operations of the boiler system. The boiler passed inspection. The City of Mpls. Inspector came out immediately and checked and okayed the boiler system. By 3:00 the school had heat. By 2:45 all students had lunch and the school day resumed as usual. Our social worker followed up with children that exhibited high anxiety. Minneapolis Public Schools has excellent coordination of services in emergency situations for your child’s safety. We train for emergency situations. Monday, Feb. 4th we met and post processed the situation and evacuation to continually improve. Students and staff did a great job. We are very proud of our students; they followed directions and did not panic. I am proud of the staff and our head engineer; they all performed as trained.

     We have one area we need to concentrate on and improve that involves our parents. Children were texting and calling their parents from their cell phones to come and get them. Even if your child is requesting this, we still need to follow the evacuation plan so all children are accounted for. Parents should not pick up their children until the child has been accounted for. This means that in the case of Jan. 31 the children needed to return to school and be checked in by their teacher. Then parents could have signed their child out in the normal process. Parents may only sign out and take their own child. Teachers should not agree to students being removed, this is not within a teacher’s authority. In an evacuation situation there are procedures for releasing students to their parents. This careful accounting for each child must be followed so we know every child is safe. Our number one priority is always the safety of your child.


Sincerely, Mary Rynchek, Principal