While parents are questioning how long it took to be notified about a lockdown at their children’s elementary school earlier this week, Caldwell-West Caldwell school officials are saying proper procedures were followed.
West Caldwell Police instructed school officials to lockdown Washington Elementary School for about an hour Tuesday afternoon after receiving a report of a possible gunshot in the area.
Doors were locked and children and staff members were ordered to stay in place from about 1 to 2 p.m., while police conducted an investigation. Two officers were sent to the school to assist with the lockdown and relay information between the principal and the police.
“During a lockdown, there cannot be communications from within the school with anyone other than the local law enforcement officials,” Christine Corliss, a representative for Caldwell-West Caldwell Schools, explained. “This did occur as per procedure.”
The school re-opened at about 2 p.m. and an email was sent home to parents just after 4 p.m.
"As a parent, my confidence in the school I trust to provide safety to my children while in their care has been severely compromised," said a parent who did not wish to be identified. "These are our children...We deserved immediate notification."
During the lockdown, the district responded to a request for information from a local news website with a statement from Superintendent James Heinegg.
One of the concerns parents expressed is that they learned about the lockdown from the website before they heard from the school principal.
"The principal's only concern during lockdown is the safety of the students," according to the district, adding it is up to representatives of the district outside the school to communicate to the public if possible.
The district further explained that the email was not sent because of the news article, but rather as part of standard procedure.
“The school did not provide a letter to parents because it appeared in the Patch, but rather the letter is standard protocol following the event,” the representative for the district explained. “The letter could not go out until the school was out of lockdown and the process complete.”
Some parents were immediately aware of the situation because they were at the school for a winter concert. When the lockdown was ordered, the parents were told to wait outside on the sidewalk, but the concert was ultimately postponed.
The incident at Washington School comes at a time when parents and school officials are on edge after a mass shooting last Friday in Newtown, Conn. killed 26 people, including 20 children.