Columbia High School was evacuated Tuesday as part of a drill to prepare students and staff for emergencies. YNN's Megan Cruz reports.
EAST GREENBUSH, N.Y. -- Grade by grade, 1,500 students at Columbia High School boarded buses with two teachers onboard.
"They're going to be teachers who can act under pressure and can take care of those kids," said Principal John Sawchuk.
The buses then drove to nearby Goff Middle School as part of a new drill to practice getting off the property as quickly as possible. It's to address a growing problem in schools.
"It's a little scary," said senior Mackenzie Nichols. "It's something all of us wish wasn't necessary, but it definitely is."
Nichols says her and her classmates know all about Sandy Hook, where 20 kids and six adults were gunned down by Adam Lanza, 20. They are also aware of last week's shooting in Nevada, where Jose Reyes, 12, killed a math teacher and wounded two other Sparks Middle School students before killing himself.
The students also know about Columbia's own tragedy. In 2004, John Romano, 17, opened fire and injured a teacher before he was taken into custody.
"We all are taking it very seriously because we all know how close to home this hits," said Nichols. "You can't prevent against everything, but have as many things in place to make the students feel safe."
"We all want to be on the same page and by doing drills like this, it offers us that opportunity to understand where we're strong, understand where we're weak," said Brian Marsh, a history teacher.
In February, the high school also hosted an active shooter drill. Police had the building to themselves to practice different scenarios.
Sawchuk says these drills are everyone's best line of defense.
"We don't have a lot of tools to keep us safe. That's the reality," he said.
He says the plan is to practice both drills at least once a year.
"'Mr. Sawchuk, tell me if my child is safe.' I want to be able to say your child is safe. We know exactly where they are," he said.
"I do feel really safe, especially because we have these drills and there's a plan," said Nichols.
Evacuating everyone took about an hour. Officials plan to learn from this first run to speed things up.