By Hailey Persinger
Killeen Daily Herald
Hundreds of Maxdale Elementary School parents waited outside the Killeen Special Events Center to pick up their children Wednesday while a standoff between police and an armed man barricaded in his home dragged on.
The Killeen Independent School District bused 671 pre-kindergarten through fifth-grade students to the center after the school spent most of the day on lockdown. School officials prohibited students and teachers from leaving the building after a man was seen firing shots into the ground at 7:28 a.m. in the 2800 block of Bluejay Drive, a block away from the school.
The man then barricaded himself in his home, leading to a standoff with police that lasted until about 5 p.m.
Sugar Loaf Elementary, Palo Alto Middle and Live Oak Ridge Middle schools had also been on lockdown, but such measures were discontinued around 9 a.m.
Leslie Gilmore, public information officer for KISD, said district officials worked with police to determine the best way to keep Maxdale students safe as they departed for the day. The close proximity of the standoff to the school kept parents from picking up their students in front of the building. Students who walk to and from school were also bused to the center.
"We always have plans in place in case there needs to be an evacuation," Gilmore said. "Our No. 1 priority is keeping the kids safe – bottom line."
Maxdale officials also moved classes on the wing closest to Bluejay Drive to the opposite side of the building.
Despite police and KISD efforts to protect students, some parents criticized the district's decision to allow classes to proceed as normal.
"They were safe, but they should have been in the cafeteria, not the classroom," said Natasha Johnson, the mother of first-, second- and fourth-graders at Maxdale. She said the children should have all been in one place so siblings could comfort each other during the ordeal. "They could have been together."
Other parents were upset with what they perceived as a lack of communication from Maxdale officials and police. Gilmore said KISD sent out an automated voice message alerting parents of the emergency and plans for student pickup, but Tiffany Biggs said her phone never rang.
"I was just driving home and saw the police," she said. "For them to sit there and try to negotiate with a mentally unstable person … they're just dragging it on. They should have evacuated the kids hours ago."
Gilmore said KISD's decision to proceed with normal school day operations was one that district officials and police said would keep the children safe.
Valeriya Herberger, whose daughter is in first grade at Maxdale, said she was willing to overlook the communication issues as long as she could take her daughter home at the end of the day.
"I'm relieved that it's OK and nothing happened to the kids," she said. "That's the most important thing."