By Catherine Matacic and David M. Pittman
WHEATON – Luxury station wagons and sport-utility vehicles lined the street to Glenallan Elementary School on Thursday afternoon, as calm but wary parents came to pick up children less than a half-mile from one of five Montgomery County slayings.
Parents waited outside on the curb in the unusually muggy October heat, blocked from entering the building by school officials.
“I’m sure it’s just overreacting,” said Helen Hiser, a single mother of three who left work in Washington to make sure her children did not have to walk home from Glenallan, Col. E. Brooke Lee Middle School and John F. Kennedy High.
“But if I don’t overreact and something happens . . . ,” Hiser trailed off and raised her hands in exasperation.
When the final bell rang for dismissal, Hiser left the other waiting parents to go spot her 9-year-old boy. Children poured out of Glenallan as parents rushed up, searching for their own.
Half-filled buses pulled away from the school, meanwhile, missing the laughter and energy normally on board as children headed home with parents.
Jorge Diaz said he walks his two children home from school each day. He thought about coming earlier Thursday, but called and talked to Principal Ronnie S. Fields, who assured them it was better to wait until the normal dismissal time.
“I think it was safer to keep them there,” he said.
The children seemed the least worried.
Although some students were scared when teachers locked classroom doors and made them sit on the floor in the dark this morning, sixth-grader Laura Machlin wasn’t. She didn’t know much of what was going on, except there was a “dangerous man” outside.
“I wasn’t particularly scared because we practiced Code Blue before,” Machlin said.
In the wake of the shootings at sites spread across the county, Montgomery school officials implemented Code Blue in all schools Thursday morning. In Code Blue, outside school doors are locked and all students and staff accounted for, sometimes by sitting in a darkened classroom.
All outside activities and extracurricular activities were canceled. After conversations with police, school officials decided to dismiss students at the regular time Thursday and said classes were scheduled to open as normal Friday.
The warm day would have been perfect for an afternoon outside, said Ric Martinez, director of the Glenallan’s after-school day care.
“But we can’t today for obvious reasons,” Martinez said. Taped to the windows of the locked school doors were signs asking parents to knock for assistance.
As Ricky Ford picked up his 7-year-old from the after-school program, he said he was pleased with the way the school and the county handled the situation.
“I’m not nervous,” he said. “I feel comfortable. I know the kids are safe. I know the schools will keep them safe.” — CNS reporter Etan Horowitz contributed to this story from Washington.