Teachers’ swift response in face of danger caps memorable P-O homecoming week

October 10, 2012 

Friday was Philipsburg-Osceola’s homecoming game. It was a big game with lots of returning alumni, and Alayna Bertothy and Aaron Long being crowned king and queen. It was everything that says good old-fashioned high school experience.

But that also means that all week the students celebrated spirit week. They came in their patriotic best for American Day on Monday, hula-ed in for Tropical Tuesday and roped in Western Wednesay. But on Thousand Dollar Thursday, while kids at the high school were blinging out, something else was happening at the junior high.

An explosion and fire broke out across Pine Street. A woman ran out for help. Students and teachers were watching.

Acting school board President Rebecca Timchak, a retired P-O teacher, was almost speechless with admiration for the junior high staff as she recounted the story at Tuesday’s board meeting. “It was the most horrific image I could envision,” she said of the smoke she saw in the sky.

Initial reports said it was actually the school that was on fire. But Principal Robin Stewart recounted quickly moving students to the opposite side of the school, which occupies an entire block at Sixth and Pine. From there, students were then removed to the Moshannon Valley YMCA several blocks away. Hundreds of children were safely evacuated within 45 minutes. Those fire drills you do in school? There’s a real reason for them, and they can actually work.

“When you see these employees, give them a hug. They had your children’s backs at all times,” said Timchak.

Likewise, teacher and union President Brad Siegfried was impressed with his colleagues. “It was phenomenal. I was very proud.”

Homecoming can be about more than just a football game. A game which, sadly, the Mounties lost. But we won when it counted, not on the field, but with our kids and our community in a moment of crisis. How is that for school spirit?

Lori Falce writes weekly about the Rush Township/Philipsburg area. Send comments to lorifalce@gmail.com.

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