Southgate Middle School was cleared by RCMP and reopened at about 2 p.m. Wednesday, nearly four hours after a bomb threat forced the evacuation of students and staff. Southgate students and staff can return to the school until 3:30 p.m. today to collect any personal belongings. The school will be open and classes will be in session as normal tomorrow, May 28.
Beginning shortly after 10 a.m., police blocked off the streets surrounding the school, located at Alder and Holm, and searched the building with the aid of a bomb-sniffing dog.
“The investigation is ongoing,” said Tom Longridge, School District 72 superintendent, who spent the morning at Southgate along with SD72 safety coordinator Tracy Kennedy and manager of operations Steve Woods. “We don’t know who the perpetrator is, but we’re confident the school is clear and safe, and we’ll be resuming school tomorrow.”
Nobody was injured in the incident. Students were led to nearby Georgia Park Elementary by teachers and staff. School District 72 officials were prepared to keep the students at Georgia Park until the Southgate building was reopened or until they were bused home at the end of the day, but most were picked up by parents or guardians by lunchtime.
“I was tremendously pleased with how the school and the RCMP reacted, and how the other school was accepting of the situation as it was emerging,” said Longridge.
Soutgate principal Cathy Mason learned of the bomb threat Wednesday after students had arrived for school. She contacted both the RCMP and the school district office. When the RCMP ordered the school evacuated, school staff to walk with students the few short blocks to Georgia Park.
“We wanted to make sure everybody was looked after and supervised by the teachers and the school,” said Longridge. “Everybody left the building until we knew it was safe and clear.”
SD72 quickly put a notification of the incident on its website and shared the information through other social media platforms.
Panago Pizza in nearby Willow Point offered donated pizza to made sure no displaced students went hungry.
Even though no bomb was found, Longridge said the response was appropriate.
“These are unfortunate incidents,” he said. “Even if it’s a prank we have to take it seriously, because the consequences are too dire to contemplate. Obviously we’ll review how the day went and how we can improve what we do. Overall, I think teachers and staff at the school did an outstanding job making sure everyone was looked after and safe.”
Four classes of students missed all the excitement, as they had already departed the school for an overnight field trip to Sayward.
“So they’re enjoying Sayward right now,” Longridge said.
The superintendent said the investigation is now in the hands of the RCMP, which can expect all the cooperation it needs from the school district.
“It’s a serious event; it’s a crime to do that,” said Longridge. “We and the RCMP will be pursuing that, and using every resource we have to find out where this threat came from.
“And there will be severe consequences both in legal terms and in school terms, if it’s somebody from the school that’s engaged in this type of behaviour.”
SD72 superintendent Tom Longridge (pointing) speaks to police investigators as they respond to a bomb threat at Southgate Middle School Wednesday morning, May 27, 2015.