RUMFORD — Rumford Elementary School had a chance to put its emergency plan into action last week when the art teacher smelled smoke in the school.

Principal Chris Decker said art teacher James Remington, whose classroom is next to a room housing three transformers, reported the smell of smoke at about 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 7. By about 10:45 a.m., everyone was out of the building, some already placed on buses.

The district’s evacuation plan immediately went into effect, Decker said.

Jonathan Chalmers, assistant director of buildings and grounds, disbursed buses to the school, and kindergarten through fifth-grade students were loaded onto the vehicles. 

Decker notified the Fire Department and Mountain Valley High School Principal Matt Gilbert that most of the 290 pupils from RES were being bused to the gym at his school.

A few parents picked up their children at RES.


Superintendent Craig King contacted all the students’ parents with the district’s mass-messaging phone system.

Most students were housed in the gym, where lunch was provided.

After lunch, RES teachers and secretarial staff stayed with the pupils, who were assisted by high school physical education teacher Kristin Tyler.

RES walker students were kept until later. Some of these students were picked up by parents, and the remaining students were sent home.

“The staff was very helpful and flexible and the students were very calm,” Decker said. “This is the first time using an evacuation plan. It worked very well.” 

He said oil had leaked from one of the transformers, causing a short circuit and heavy smoke, which filtered into the art room.


Central Maine Power Co. workers repaired the transformer Wednesday night. Decker estimated damage to the school at under $2,000.

“It tested our emergency system,” Decker said. “I’m pleased with how everything fell into place.” 

King, too, was impressed by the emergency plan.

“Everyone responded perfectly,” he said.

Children were back at school on Thursday.

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