Students were evacuated from Stonewall Middle School in the Manassas area Monday morning because of a leak from a gas pipe at the back of the school, Battalion Chief C. Hadden Culp, Prince William Department of Fire and Rescue spokesman said.
Four homes behind the Lomond Drive school were also evacuated, although no one was hurt, school and safety officials said.
The building was evacuated for about two hours.
A substitute teacher hit the gas meter — located behind the school — while parking her car about 8:30 a.m., Tim Nelson, Prince William County School heat shop foreman said.
Without time to grab coats or keys, about 938 students, 100 teachers, and various staff members were evacuated onto the school’s soccer field, Principal Anne Case said.
The building’s electricity and heating systems were shut off in order to prevent any further flow; gas company officials did so within 37 minutes of the leak, Culp said.
Once everyone was out of the building, school officials announced on bull horns what had happened, Case said.
The students were moved from the soccer field to the football field because of the heavy smell of gas that reached them as they were waiting outside, said Brittney Dore, 13. They were moved farther back after that.
“We could start to smell it when we were up there,” Dore said.
“The important thing was getting students out of harm’s way that was the first thing we did,” said Steve Stepanick, Stonewall security specialist.
School buses picked up students, who were advised to go to a safe place if they knew of one. If they didn’t, they remained at the school until arrangements for pick-up could be made with parents, Case said.
Assistant Principal John Miller was one of the first to see and smell the leak. “You could hear it from anywhere. I didn’t smell [the gas] at first. Then, all the sudden, you could smell it,” Miller said.
“You could smell [the gas], but it was not that bad,” said Kassie Maggar, 12.
Four students remained at the school by 11 a.m.; two students are new to the school and had not filled out emergency card information, Case said.
When the fire alarm initially went off, students thought they were experiencing a routine fire drill; they have one per month, said Brittany Brown, 13.
Once school officials were allowed back into the building, a phone message was sent to students’ home and parents’ work numbers notifying them of what happened, Case said. “We have our procedures and we followed them.”
When the students were told that they were being sent home, a roar erupted over the crowd.
“People were going crazy,” said Mike Johnson, 15.
School officials set up boundaries for students who walk home so that they would not walk within the area of the gas, said John Maggar, 13.