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Washington School Locked Down While Police Investigate Report of Gunshot

Patrons of Central Avenue barber shop say they heard a possible gunshot around 1 p.m. Tuesday.

School officials locked down Washington Elementary School in West Caldwell for about an hour Tuesday afternoon while police investigated reports of a possible gunshot in the area.

Two police officers were sent to the school, where students remained in their classrooms behind locked doors. Parents, who were there for a winter concert, waited outside on the sidewalk.

Patrons at Central Barbers reported around 1 p.m. hearing a loud bang one man said "sounded like a gunshot," according to West Caldwell Police Chief Michael Bramhall.

Multiple police vehicles responded to the strip of businesses at the intersection of Central and Elmwood Terrace and blocked traffic from Woodrow Place to Miller Street along Central Avenue, as well as side streets, while the investigation was conducted. The businesses are located just a few blocks from the Caldwell-West Caldwell elementary school. 

Some people interviewed in the vicinity of the businesses said they heard what could have been a car backfiring or a car accident, Bramhall said. The chief said police were not able to find anything that supported the claim of a gunshot. 

"Once the police were satisfied that there was no longer a concern, the school went back to normal activity," Caldwell-West Caldwell Superintendent James Heinegg said in a prepared statement. "The police had the matter under control at all times."

North Caldwell and Fairfield police officers also responded to the scene.

melanie December 18, 2012 at 08:31 PM
Why werent parents notified of the lockdown?
JohneRus December 18, 2012 at 08:54 PM
Three hours later....still no word from Principal Adams. Was she at work today? Or is this just another example of her usual "no communication with parents" policy?
Michele Astone December 18, 2012 at 09:36 PM
Yeah why am I just learning about this now??
WC December 18, 2012 at 10:34 PM
something tells me you are all first time Washington parents. I've been there for almost 12 years and I can personally attest to the fact that parents are not simply welcomed in the main office. Communication is an absolute minimum. On a more positive note, the new GCMS principal is the exact opposite. He communicates regularly and actually listens to parents. to be fair Mr. Shorter did as well. Point is, not all schools are llike Washington.
Karen Caine December 19, 2012 at 01:36 AM
Sounds like some posters are taking this opportunity to bash the principal for some previous gripes they have. If you have issues, bring them up with the principal -- don't use this scary situation that was handled well as an excuse to bash the principal. This was, I'm sure a frightening day for those involved -- BUT principal Adams did issue a statement and she did nothing wrong in this instance. Tensions are high this week with all going on in our country. But today's issue at Washington school, by all accounts, including media accounts was handled well by the principal -- this is clear.
Melanie December 19, 2012 at 12:06 PM
I personally like Principal Adams...I've been welcomed into her office at all times. The front desk staff and nurse are also very kind and welcoming to me and my family. My son has been there since second grade and is now in 5th. I called the school when I saw the article on patch and they told me everyone was ok and that an email was sent to all of us parents. I went into my email and there it was.
Julia 6773 December 19, 2012 at 02:04 PM
You are missing the point Melanie - the letter was sent home only because the Patch posted the article and then the school received some phone calls from angry parents. There is no excuse for a principal of a small K-5 school to be that far behind the news cycle. when parents find out on the patch or through word of mouth, before they hear form a school official, something is dreadfully wrong. This was a botched communication job, right from the beginning. Patch gets an A - Principal gets a F.
Skippy December 19, 2012 at 04:16 PM
Whoa, hold on. The school was in a lock down forced by the police department from 1:15-2:20. All students, visitors, and staff were safe inside. At 2:20 the lock down was released, classes resumed, and children were dismissed at 3:00. At 4:03 the principal sent an email to all families explaining the event. What else do you want from her? The event was handled properly. We get used to having instant "information" . The principal has obligations to the students and did all she could to keep them safe. You should be grateful for that and get off your high horses.
melanie December 19, 2012 at 05:27 PM
If patch can have the information closer to real time why cant the school? how long does it take to draft a simple email? in light of recent events there is no excuse for the lack of communication - it should be on a more timley basis - period.isnt that what we have the Instant alert system for?
KT December 19, 2012 at 10:32 PM
Yes why didn't it come across the instant alert system?
ABC December 20, 2012 at 10:36 AM
In the wake of the tragedy that occurred on Friday, it startles and saddens me to believe that some can be so quick to attack a person who would do absolutely anything for the safety of their children at Washington School. Principal Adams is a wonderfully caring leader to her students, as well as her staff. She should be commended, not criticized, for her clear thinking and compassion demonstrated on Tuesday during the 1-hour lockdown. I qualify to make this statement because I am lucky enough to be one of her staff members. During this very stressful, yet necessary procedure my colleagues and I felt confident that Mrs. Adams and our superb police force had the children’s safety as their number one priority. She and Officer Mazzeo patrolled the halls of Washington School throughout the lockdown to insure our protection. Her time spent immediately following the lockdown was in various classrooms, addressing any fears or concerns that the children had, ensuring them that they were safe. As always, her students were her priority. At dismissal, she did the same until every child was well on their way into their parents’ arms. Thank you Mrs. Adams for your dedication to the children of Washington School.
Kean09 December 20, 2012 at 08:22 PM
First thing to do is make sure the building is safe and that the kids are safe.. I suppose if she ran to her computer and drafted an email to the parents they would have stormed the school..That would have helped keep the kids calm seeing all the parents storm the school, they have seen enough already this week.. She did what she was suppose to do.. Then she drafted her email.. It amazes that everyone has an opinion I got it why don't you all rally for her job and see if you can do it better?
Kris December 20, 2012 at 09:04 PM
What happened to the new and "great" Honey Well Alert System? An hour after dissmissal to find out of a lock down is absolutey unacceptable. Especailly after The Patch had a breaking news alert on it within a 15 minute period! I understand during the lock down it would not have been appropriate for all parties involved to receive notice, as hundreds of parents would have caused more commotion at the school. There is no excuse why it was not sent out IMMEDIATLEY after the lock down was over. Whether it was a desicion made by Mrs. Adams or Heinegg the situation does need to be rectified.

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