Local schools were locked down last week following a threatening phone call to Kent Elementary School.
The call came in around 2 p.m. last Thursday, May 7. Principal Stan Watchorn says the school was put in lock down until the situation could be assessed. Members from Agassiz and Chilliwack detachments attended the scene as well as integrated police dog services and the emergency response team.
”The RCMP immediately responded when we were called with all our resources,” states Cpl. Mike Rail, RCMP spokesman.
Concerned parents gathered past the police perimeter as RCMP officers combed the school grounds meticulously, starting with guns drawn looking into windows at the school, followed by searches of the parking lot, playground, surrounding neighbourhoods and even the school roof.
“The kids and the staff were great, and the RCMP could not have done a better job in my view,” says Watchorn. “They responded immediately, kept us informed inside about what was going on and they obviously did a thorough and very careful analysis of the situation.”
While the threatening phone call was directed towards Kent Elementary, all area schools were put in lockdown to follow safety protocols, says Rail, including Agassiz Elementary Secondary School, Agassiz Christian School and Harrison Hot Springs Elementary School.
“There was a thorough, thorough search of the entire area and nobody was located,” Rail explains.
Parents waited anxiously, blocked at the intersection of Vimy Road and McCullough Road while RCMP searched. Shortly after 3 p.m., RCMP told parents that the area was clear. Students who had been away on a field trip would be bussed back to the scene, followed by bus students being picked up then parents could pick up their children. Shortly after 3:30 p.m., all parents were allowed on-site to pick up their children, relief evident on their faces.
“Everyone is safe,” reports Rail. “All children were safe, there were no injuries.”
As of Monday afternoon, no one has been taken into custody as a result of the phone call. Rail says RCMP are still investigating.
Watchorn was impressed with the professionalism of RCMP, staff and students during the lockdown.
“It was obviously stressful because we didn’t know exactly what was going on in terms of the significance of the threat,” says Watchorn. “But the RCMP were amazing and the kids and the staff, in spite of all the stress, handled it in the most professional way.”
When bus students were ready to go, Watchorn went out to parents personally to let them know they would be able to pick up their children soon.
One thing Watchorn advises to caregivers if another lockdown occurs is to not phone the school.
“We had a lot of phonecalls coming in from worried parents,” he reports. “In a lockdown situation, we’re not able to answer the phone.”