School puts safety first

Herald/DAVID MORRIS - Jhes Arce, left, and Alaishia Gaines of Roberta Lasly’s third-grade class, work on a word puzzle as they pass the time while waiting to return to Pershing Park Elementary Friday. -

By Rebecca LaFlure

Killeen Daily Herald

An estimated 750 students evacuated Pershing Park Elementary School Friday morning due to a gas smell circulating throughout the building.

The odor – originally thought to be from a natural gas leak – was caused by construction on a gas line, according to Steve Buchanan, Killeen Fire Department deputy fire chief.

"They (the construction workers) had disconnected a gas line, and the gas that was left residual in that line is what somebody smelled. They assumed it was a huge leak and called 911," Buchanan said.

"They started evacuating the kids. By the time we got there, they (the construction workers) had reconnected the gas line, and there was no leak whatsoever. Our guys didn't even smell it. It was just not an issue, and it got blown way out of proportion."

No injuries or sickness were reported, according to Leslie Gilmore, spokesperson for the Killeen Independent School District.

Buchanan said he did not know who was doing the construction, or if it took place inside or outside the school.

The fire department was dispatched to the school early Friday morning at 1500 W. Central Texas Expressway after a 911 call, he said. An Atmos Energy crew was also at the scene.

According to Gilmore, the students exited the school building at 7:40 a.m. The children remained on school buses for about 30 to 40 minutes, and were then driven to the Killeen Special Events Center on W.S. Young Drive to eat breakfast and go to the bathroom.

The situation at the school was cleared around 11 a.m. and the students were sent back to the elementary school, she said. Classes resumed at 11:15 a.m. Friday was a scheduled early- release day for the students.

"We've got a plan in place for any time there is any kind of emergency," Gilmore said. "What we did was, we put the kids on the bus, we contacted the City of Killeen ? and they let us come to the Special Events Center. Then our food services had everything ready for breakfast."

Parents were not immediately notified of the situation, but a letter from the principal was sent home with each student, she said.

"We were in the process of notifying parents and were then told, 'No, don't do it' because everything was okay," she said.

Many parents still picked up their children at the events center.

Staff Sgt. Angel Luna came to the center to get his 5-year-old son "just to be on the safe side." He found out about the evacuation through a military e-mail, he said.

Contact Rebecca LaFlure at or (254) 501-7548.

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