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10-23-02: Local students doing well in capital
The Daily Standard

    The chilling message apparently left by a Washington-area sniper during the weekend has struck close to home for area parents whose children are or soon will be touring the nation's capital.
    Police in Rockville, Md., revealed Tuesday a message left at a steakhouse, the scene of a Saturday night shooting, warned "Your children are not safe anywhere at any time." They believe it was left by the person responsible for a string of 13 shootings that have claimed 10 lives since Oct. 2.
    Eighth-grade students in the Coldwater and Minster school districts left
Sunday night on tours hosted by K & K Tours of Celina. They are expected back early Friday morning.
    Plans call for a delegation from the Marion Local school district to depart Monday morning.
    Richard Seas, junior high principal at Coldwater, has been in contact with tour coordinator Chuck Riethman and some of 28 chaperones accompanying the 107 students.
    "Things are going real well," Seas said. "The tour is filled with such wonderful experiences that students do not not have an opportunity to watch television or read newspapers."
    Seas does not know whether students are aware of the latest fatal shooting or the warning.
    "Everything has been positive as far as they are concerned," he added.
"Unfortunately, there is concern here at home."
    Some parents have shared their concerns with school officials.   There are no plans to shorten the trip, although some changes in the itinerary could result in the three charter buses arriving back in Coldwater ahead of schedule Friday morning.
    The students were supposed to visit the Iwo Jima Memorial Thursday night. The visit to the well-lit memorial, located off by itself near a wooded area, has been rescheduled to daytime hours. Seas does not know at this point whether the buses will leave earlier than planned Thursday night. Parents will be notified regarding the expected arrival time.
    Minster Junior High School Principal Mike Lee is in Washington, D.C., with students. Calls regarding the tour were referred to Superintendent Halver Belcher, who was not available for comment this morning.
    Greg Puthoff, assistant principal and trip coordinator at Marion Local, confirmed plans are still "a go" at this point.
    Students will be permitted to bring cell phones this time in order to call their parents as designated. Cell phones were banned on previous trips. Additionally, Puthoff or a designated representative will call back to school daily to report any itinerary changes.
    "Parents will be able to call school and find out what's going on," Puthoff explained. "We will keep them updated."
    Two parents visited Puthoff this morning to talk about their concerns in
the wake of the latest shooting. However, they do not plan to keep their children home.
    Tour operators Dave and Kathy Macwhinney reported last week extra precautions have been implemented in the wake of the shootings. A nighttime ghost tour in Alexandria, Va. was dropped from the schedule.
    The Macwhinneys reported there has been heightened security throughout the nation's capital, particularly at freeway entrances and exits. Their son, Kraig, is currently accompanying the Coldwater delegation.
    The sniper attacks have taken place in outlying suburbs as far as 20 to
50 miles away from the national landmarks, and the hotels used by K & K Tours are located out in the suburbs. However, extra precautions are in place when the chartered buses pull into hotel and restaurant parking lots.


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