By CHELSEA JENSEN
A suspicious man on the grounds of Waimea Elementary and Middle schools on Friday morning prompted a campus lockdown that lasted approximately 40 minutes.
The lockdown went into effect at the schools shortly before 8 a.m. after a boy reported an unknown man had been chasing a 10-year-old boy on the elementary school grounds, said a Hawaii Police Department spokeswoman. Police learned the man chasing the boy was actually a relative of the youngster.
During the lockdown, students were corralled into classrooms where they remained for about 35 minutes while teachers and staff accounted for all the students and contacted emergency officials, said Patti Cook, Waimea Middle Public Conversion Charter School’s community relations liaison. No injuries were reported and all students were accounted for, she added.
The elementary school has an enrollment of about 600, while the middle school student population is about 290, Cook said. School had yet to start for the day.
HPD officers and Special Response Team members who were training in the vicinity responded and secured the campus. Officers found no sign of the man and the lockdown was lifted before 8:45 a.m.
Police initially treated the case as a trespassing investigation. They closed the case upon learning the man was a relative of the boy.
The middle school made notification calls to students’ parents — one notifying them of the lockdown and the other of the all-clear being given, Cook said. Students will also take a letter home regarding the incident.
The elementary school referred comment to West Hawaii Complex Area Superintendent Art Souza, who said the school’s automatic notification system sent out notifications and students were to be sent home with letters. He also said parents who called the school were made aware of the incident.
Lisa Fejeran, whose daughter attends the elementary school’s Head Start program, said she first received information about the incident from her husband, who was dropping their daughter off at the time and had to take part in the lockdown. She subsequently called Waimea police, who confirmed a lockdown was under way.
Fejeran said she didn’t receive notification from the school until about 20 minutes after the lockdown ended, when her daughter’s preschool teacher personally contacted her. She said she would have been more concerned about not being notified had her husband not been with their child at the time.
“With everything that happened at Sandy Hook (Elementary School) it was scary,” she said. “Even though we live in Hawaii — it’s still scary and could happen anywhere.”
Despite her concern over notification, she said she is thankful the school practices lockdown procedures and has a protocol in place in the event of a suspicious person on campus.
“You just never know,” she said about the likelihood of a lockdown being needed.
Email Chelsea Jensen at firstname.lastname@example.org.