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El Camino Real High students arrive for school, unfazed by shooting and lockdown

January 20, 2011 |  8:57 am

Los Angeles School Police keep an eye on things in front of El Camino Real High School in Woodland Hills as students arrive for class on Thursday morning.

A stream of parents arrived in cars to drop off their children at El Camino Real High School in Woodland Hills Thursday morning, and other students walked to school with the shooting of a police officer near campus fresh on their minds.

Many parents and children said they were not concerned about returning to school after Wednesday's shooting of police officer Jeffrey Stenroos as the gunman remained at large. Several police cars were visible around campus, indicating the law enforcement presence had been stepped up.

Ernesto Tajimaroa dropped off his son Jaime, 13, at El Camino about 6:30 a.m. Thursday.

“I believe everything is going to be fine,” said Tajimaroa, whose son was kept in the gym during a police-order lockdown until 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, when Tajimaroa's cousin picked him up.

Parents also spoke about the job police did Wednesday, setting up a massive seven-mile perimeter around the El Camino campus.

“I think they did a good job,” said Alison Garcia, who was not worried about her son Drew, 15, returning to school. “I felt [Drew] was safe because he was inside.”

Garcia acknowledged there was some chaos getting all the students out of El Camino and Hale Middle School but said “that’s to be expected.” She said she parked on side streets outside the closed-off area Wednesday and walked in to get her son.

“The kids were safe, they were calm,” Garcia said.

Drew, who was in an English class during Wednesday's lockdown, said the ordeal was “tiring” but his classmates stayed cheerful and they watched events unfold on TV. The main complaint was they were hungry and did not have access to food or water.

As teachers and students recounted their experiences, many reported being alert despite their hunger.

Anita Gruen, a computer teacher and 11-year educator at El Camino, said she was teaching a group of 10th- to 12th-graders when the lockdown was ordered. Gruen said her students were “very good and very well-behaved.”

She said students followed the breaking news events on television and their computers. Although there was no food or water, she had a package of throat lozenges, which she shared with those who wanted some.

She also had a sink in her room and some cups in a closet. She joked that next time she would have to stock her cupboards with Triscuit crackers.

Despite the threat of a suspect still at large Thursday, many students said they were comfortable with returning to El Camino.

Shayla Lamberth, 14, said she was locked down from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. in an algebra class. The main problem was many students needed to use the bathroom but could not.

“I thought a lot of people were not going to come today and I thought about staying home, but I came anyway," she said. "I didn’t think it would be a problem.”

Kevin Wong, 17, walked to school Thursday with two friends, Raul Silva, 19, and David Crystal, 17. After a day spent locked down in a library, the three friends said they were not concerned about the gunman returning to the area.

“I knew he wouldn’t come back,” said Wong of the suspect. “And there are so many cops around.”

RELATED:

Students pour out of El Camino Real High after lockdown

LAPD defends massive dragnet for gunman who shot officer

Teacher, students shared food, kept spirits high inside El Camino Real High classroom

-- Ann M. Simmons in Woodland Hills

Photo: Los Angeles School Police keep an eye on things in front of El Camino Real High School in Woodland Hills as students arrive for class on Thursday morning. Credit:  Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times

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