Last Thursday, I had just started reading "The Necklace" with my freshmen English class when the assistant principal burst into the room. Clearly trying to maintain her calm while indicating a sense of urgency, she said, "Ms. Flower, we may have a gas leak down the hall. We're pretty sure it'll be nothing, but we need you to take your class to Room ### until the gas company clears it."

I made my kids take everything with them--including their giant lit books--and we trundled ourselves off to the cafeteria, where I continued my lesson.

Ten minutes later, there was an announcement to the whole school:

"Students and teachers, we have been asked by the gas company to evacuate. Please use your fire drill exits and make your way to the football stadium."

Once again, I made my kids take everything with them, and we headed out into the arctic chill where we would try not to die of either gas poisoning or hypothermia. Fortunately, I managed to keep all 21 of mine together, and I made them sit together in the stadium, too because, as I told one of my students, "What if you go off to who-knows-where and come back pregnant? Who are your parents going to call?" She assured me that her parents would be calling the funeral home, as she would be dead, but I didn't let her go sit with her friends anyway.

We were outside for about 45 minutes; the temperature was about 36 degrees. I only had my long-sleeved shirt, no jacket, and a kid from another of my classes said, "Ms. Flower! You sick! You gonna have to stay home again." I heartily agreed with him.

The kids again proved just how great they are: the entire student body was outside, but they all sat down, nobody started smoking or selling drugs or sexually harrassing or killing. Probably that couldn't have happened at other schools in our area.

Eventually we were sent back to class, and I managed to make it in spite of having developed a nasty case of walking pneumonia. I immediately texted my mom and asked her to call the board; I strongly felt that we should not have to go to school in a gaseous environment.

Still, the board (in all its wisdom) decided that we had to stay, even though all the Mecca schools in the county got out just a few weeks before on account of a water shortage. "Not having water doesn't kill people," I pointed out in my (fake) deposition, "Gas DOES." Especially when your classroom is four doors down from the gas leak. And by "your," I definitely mean "my."

We finished the rest of the day in school, grudgingly. I'm not going to say that I didn't complain, or that I'm done complaining, because that would be a big fat lie. (And, as my father pointed out to me recently, I hold a grudge.)

So we were almost gassed to death, frozen to death, then gassed to death again. Just another day at Randomville High School.

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