Militarized Police Lock Down Christian Academy
(DAILY LOCAL) A misunderstanding about the visit of a parent to West-Mont Christian Academy’s elementary school led to the evacuation and search of the school building Tuesday morning.
About 7:55 a.m., an “agitated” parent arrived at the elementary school building at 843 S. Hanover St. and asked to speak to a kindergarten teacher, supposedly about a student, according to Dr. James Smock, West-Mont administrator, who was interviewed after the incident.
The parent was escorted to the lobby by another teacher because the teachers were participating in devotions, according to a school news release issued Tuesday afternoon. Township Police Chief Robert Schurr said the visitor had told the other teacher that he had been sent to the elementary school by someone at the main office. The teacher advised the visitor to wait in the lobby, then the teacher’s attention was “drawn away by other students,” according to police.
“As later seen on our video surveillance cameras, instead of waiting, the parent went upstairs and viewed various art works on the walls, waiting for the teacher to arrive,” a news release issued by Smock read. “When the teacher came, there was a fruitful discussion, after which the parent left the building.”
According to Smock, classes had not yet started and students weren’t confined to particular classrooms at the time of the incident.
When the teacher returned to check on the visitor and could not find him, the school administration was alerted, Smock said.
“His lack of presence concerned other staff members who thought that the individual may have been an unwanted visitor” because they saw him roaming the halls, the press release from the school said.
Fearing problems, school officials evacuated the students and immediately contacted police about 8:34 a.m., according to a news release from police.
“The children were evacuated to the back building, the police were summoned, and campus lockdown procedures were implemented,” according to Smock’s news release.
“Because of our cooperation with the police department here and our safety team that was in place, no children were at risk,” said Smock.
Students were taken to the gym at the middle school/high school building.
Police called in the Chesmont Emergency Response Team, who were in training Tuesday in the township, to assist in clearing the building. They were assisted by three K-9 officers from North Coventry and Pottstown police departments.
Warwick Child Care locations on East Cedarville Road and Urner Street were both notified about the potential danger and were advised to go into lockdown, Schurr said. Owen J. Roberts school security was also alerted to the situation since North Coventry Elementary School is on Kemp Road, south of East Cedarville Road, but that school did not go into lockdown, according to school officials.
South Hanover Street, between Route 724 and Cedarville Road, was shut down by fire police as officers from area police departments, the state police and the response team surrounded the building.
Area residents, while not advised by police that it was necessary to do so, were staying inside their homes and away from the scene as the response team entered the building, guns raised, about 10:30 a.m.
The team could be seen moving past windows and along the roof as they searched for any signs of an intruder.
One area resident, who was watching the incident unfold from her back yard, said the building had many nooks and crannies to it, making it hard to search.
About 11:14 a.m. the response team declared the building clear of occupants and South Hanover Street reopened to traffic.
The parent was not found in the building, officials said.
Schurr said the parent was identified by school staff and not considered a threat, though officials would be talking to him about the incident.
Smock said students returned to the elementary school, where they ate lunch and classes resumed.
“We would like to express our appreciation for the quick response received from the North Coventry Police and fire departments, the Chester County Emergency Response Team, and the Pottstown Police Department,” read the release from Smock. “Within a matter of minutes, they had secured our campus. We were in good hands with their cooperative efforts.”