While Pasco sheriff's deputies searched for a bank robber Tuesday afternoon, Schrader Elementary School second-grader Amanda Guida hid under a desk in a dark classroom.
"I was a little nervous because she's in a portable classroom," said her mother, Lena. "Everybody was a little nervous."
The 2:07 p.m. robbery of First Union Bank, 8994 State Road 52, sent deputies with dogs and deputies in helicopters scurrying to find a culprit. Minutes later it sent school officials at nearby Schrader and Bayonet Point Middle School rushing to protect their students.
Deputies never did make an arrest, and some of those children arrived home hours late.
Shortly after the robbery, a sheriff's dog tracked the robber's scent south along Little Road, said Lt. J.P. Jackson. The dog never tracked it within a quarter mile of the school, but principal Mary Ellen Stelnicki opted for the strongest precaution. She locked down the school.
"It's better to be safe," she said.
Bayonet Point followed suit.
Schrader students at an outdoor gymnastic assembly were sent to the school's 15 portable classrooms.
"Everybody scattered," Stelnicki said.
Inside, students gathered in groups in their dark rooms. Classroom doors were locked and curtains drawn. Students in portable classrooms remained under desks for more than an hour.
At Bayonet Point, students remained in their final period class, principal Steve Salerno said.
As dismissal time came and went at both schools, parents started to call.
"Where's my daughter?" asked Cynthia Delillo, whose daughter, Angelica, attends Schrader. "She didn't come home."
Dozens of parents converged on Schrader at 3:30 p.m., dismissal time. They found a green sign taped to the front door.
"Parents _ We are in LOCK DOWN. No children released or doors opened until we hear from Sheriff. Only he can release us. Please be patient. Your kids are safe."
Between 3:30 and 3:40 p.m. the lock down was lifted at Schrader.
Bayonet, which typically dismisses at 2:50 p.m., didn't officially lift its lock down until 4:30 p.m., but it dismissed students in waves before that. First were students who get rides home, then bus riders, then walkers.
At Schrader, students who walk home were cleared to leave about 4:10 p.m.
"Go straight home," Stelnicki told them over the loudspeaker. "Do not stop. Go straight home."
The buses had to take middle school students home first and didn't return to get some of the elementary students until nearly 5 p.m.
Deputies drove home some elementary kids who were crying.
"Anything we can do," Sgt. Jeffrey Tanner said. "It's mass confusion."
By 4:30 Bayonet Point had mostly emptied. Schrader was nearly vacant by 5.
The robber remained at large Tuesday night. Deputies said he handed the teller a note demanding money, took the money and ran from the bank. He never showed a weapon.
He is described as 35 to 40 years old, white, 5-feet-11 and 220 pounds with a mustache and long black or brown hair. He hadn't shaved for a couple of days.
He was wearing a camouflage shirt and pants but tossed them later. He was last seen wearing a dirty white T-shirt and blue work pants.
The bank teller said he smelled of alcohol.
_ Ryan Davis is the police reporter in Pasco County. He can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6245 or toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6245. His e-mail address is rdavissptimes.com.