Pangborn Elementary School locked down after Hagerstown bank robbery

October 23, 2007|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

Click here to view more M&T robbery and Pangborn Elementary photos.

HAGERSTOWN - Pangborn Elementary School was locked down for more than two hours Monday afternoon while police searched for two armed men who robbed an area bank.

A Washington County Public Schools spokesman said that officials decided at about 2 p.m. not to allow anyone to go in or out of the building. Some children were released with their parents at about 3 p.m., and about two hours later, police reported that all children had been dismissed.

Dismissal time for Pangborn Elementary's 640 students normally is 2:55 p.m.

Hagerstown Police said two masked men fled after robbing an M&T Bank branch on Dual Highway at about 2 p.m.

Schools spokesman Will Kauffman said school system officials were contacted by Washington County Sheriff Douglas Mullendore, who recommended that access to and from the school, which is about a half-mile from the bank, be limited.


"We did that immediately," Kauffman said.

Kauffman said school system officials sent out an AlertNow phone message to Pangborn Elementary School parents about the lockdown.

"We activated (the messages) before dismissal to get the attention of parents (and others) who would be awaiting children at the end of the day," he said. "Let them know there had been a delay."

Ivonne Lepage, whose two children attend the school, said she got a call with an automated message saying the school was on lockdown.

"The first thing that came into my head was the whole Columbine shooting," Lepage said. "I think my biggest fear was for my kindergartner to see all the police with guns."

Her son, 7-year-old Alex Lepage, said he was a little afraid when teachers told his second-grade class there were helicopters and police outside. He said his classmates were saying, "Oh no, I'm gonna die!"

Outside the school, parents waited anxiously in a line for their turn to get their children while police stood guard.

Other parents waited in their cars on Pangborn Boulevard in a backup that stretched to Jefferson Boulevard. Police blocked Pangborn Boulevard at Westwood Street, so many parents parked on the side of the road or left their cars in the street while they went to get their children.

"Everybody followed procedures and we did our best to ensure an orderly series of steps that were taken, and to maintain a safe, secure environment until the all clear was given by law enforcement," Kauffman said.

He said that school staff worked to minimize alarm among the children.

The first buses began arriving at the school about 4:15 p.m., and Kauffman said school staff was busy coordinating an orderly dismissal, despite the delay.

Before buses arrived, some students were released from the school to their parents. Kauffman said that school officials worked with law enforcement to coordinate dismissal.

"They have authorized school personnel to dismiss some students to parents who have been at the (school) to sign kids out, take kids out of the building," he said.

The lockdown posed difficulties for several after-school daycare providers whose vans were stuck in the backup on Pangborn.

"I've never been in a situation like this," said Ira Brown, a driver for the Boys & Girls Club of Washington County, who was waiting to pick up about 13 children. "Normally, I just pick them up at the door in the van. If I walk up to the school and I get 13 kids, how am I going to keep them under control?"

Dawn Davis, who had other stops to make for Christian Cherub day care, said she hadn't been notified of the lockdown and wished the school had put up a sign about the situation before she had gotten stuck in the line of cars.

Staff writer Heather Keels contributed to this story.

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