While lockdowns and hold-and-secures at three Nanaimo district schools have been lifted, police will remain at schools for the remainder of the day, say officials.
Following a threat that was made to Dover Bay Secondary School on Friday morning, the north-end high school was put into lockdown, while McGirr Elementary and Nanaimo District Secondary School saw hold-and-secures implemented, according to Nanaimo RCMP and Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools.
No arrests were made, say police.
“An incident came directly to us this morning,” Const. Gary O’Brien, Nanaimo RCMP spokesman, told the News Bulletin. “We discussed it with senior staff at the school and we thought that the appropriate measure would be to lock down Dover and because McGirr was adjacent to it, put [it] on hold-and-secure. And there may have been some kind of relationship with NDSS involving this incident, so they were put on hold-and-secure.
“At 11:20 a.m., we had done what we felt was a pretty solid investigation into the incident. We deemed it wasn’t credible, but out of an abundance of caution for students staff and parents, two officers at the school will remain there for the rest of the day and we will continue to investigate this incident.”
For parents and students the incident raised alarm, especially because of cellular communications coming from students hunkered down with their teachers as police searched the schools.
Craig Hewitt, father of a Grade 9 student at Dover Secondary School and a younger son attending McGirr Elementary said he heard fears that a shooter might have been in the school.
“They were just really scared so I headed over here as soon as I could,” Hewitt said. “I was in a panic. I got here as quick as I could. I was pretty scared, yeah. It’s not the most common thing.”
Students caught inside the school during the lock down said the experience was scary. Ella Ostrikoff, Grade 12 Dover Bay Secondary student, was in class in the upper floor of the school about 15 minutes under a hold-and-secure order, then the lockdown order was issued. She said students thought it was a drill at first, but then discovered through social media that NDSS was locked down too.
“Every thing was fine for about 15 minutes then we were into a lockdown, so lights off, lock doors, hide in the corners, not allowed to make any sounds,” said Ostrikoff. “That turned out [to be] for about 45 minutes and we’re all hearing different things happening outside of the school, by different sounds and everything.”
She said the students were told if they heard sounds of gunshots to get down on the ground and remain quiet.
“I was OK. I was a little shaken up, but then a lot of my classmates were crying and scared, texting their parents, of course,” she said.
Ostrikoff said no information about what was happening was communicated to the students, who turned to social media on their cell phones to find out what they could.
“We’re all on our phones, social media, that’s how we found out what was going on,” she said. “It made more students comfortable with knowing what was going on outside rather than no information.”
Christina Jones, Grade 9 student, was with about 20 students in the library who became frightened when the hold and secure order was raised to a lockdown.
“The teachers were rushing us into the back room of the library,” Jones said. “So we were all hiding there for an hour.”
Jones started texting friends and relatives to find out what was happening.
“I didn’t understand what was happening and my grandma was freaking out … she sent me this link that said Dover Bay and NDSS and McGirr were all getting threats.”
Dale Burgos, school district spokesman, said he couldn’t provide specifics on the incident, but said a lockdown is a situation when there is a threat in the immediate vicinity of the school, whether it’s outside the school or inside and a hold-and-secure is more to do with when something is happening near the school, where there is police presence.
Nanaimo RCMP said the investigation is ongoing and are asking anyone with information about the incident to call 250-754-2345.