Evacuation chairs provide safety and support for students with disabilities


Assistant principal Shawna LaRocque helps a student down the stairs.

Evac Chairs were added to the school this year to make transporting disabled students in case of an emergency quicker. If a student is on the second floor during a fire or tornado warning, the Evacuation Chair is used to make sure the student is safely brought down to the first floor.

As the head of the special education department, assistant principal Shawnda LaRocque played an important role in making the decision to buy the chairs.

“It’s incredible,” LaRocque said. “In the past, we’ve had to carry our students down the stairs on the second floor and we’ve had to put them in a wheelchair at the bottom and then wheel them out. We’ve never had a way to get a wheelchair student safely down the stairs. This year, we have five wheelchair students on campus, so there is no way we could carry all [of] them down.”

The chairs are equipped with a rubber pulley system which allows the chairs to go down the stairs smoothly. Meanwhile, the ninth grade center uses a different evacuation method for disabled students.

“The Ninth Grade Center actually uses a sled that goes down the stairs, but takes like four or five people to run the sled to get the students down safely,” LaRocque said. “I needed something faster and probably more supportive of some of our students because of their disabilities, physically.”

Once a student is placed in the chair, the student’s head is strapped back and the student is buckled in. A teacher will then drive the chair down the stairs.

“This chair allows us to [help students] in a quick fashion,” Principal Scot Finch said. “It keeps the students safe but also keeps the people safe who, in the past, might have carried them down the stairs.”