Ottawa police allow students to leave at the end of the school day at St. Patrick’s High School on Tuesday.
Tony Caldwell / Postmedia
Under the watch of several police gunmen, students from St. Patrick’s High School exited one by one into the parking lot on Tuesday.They’d been locked inside their classrooms all day following a security threat, and were finally allowed to exit in a “staged dismissal” following a pat-down from police.Some students yawned and blinked as they stepped outside. Others smiled and joined chattering groups of waiting friends. Others embraced their waiting parents. They were still confused about why it was all happening but were too tired to spend any more time wondering about it.St. Patrick’s was put in a locked down “shelter in place” mode Tuesday morning following an anonymous threat. The Ottawa Catholic School Board said on Twitter shortly after 1 p.m. that the lockdown was due to an email threat.Late in the afternoon, after all the students and most of the staff had been cleared from the building, Ottawa police released a statement that the threat was “unfounded” but that an investigation would continue.
Ottawa police search a students bag before he entered St. Pat’s High School in Ottawa Tuesday May 28, 2019. St. Patrick’s High School remains in shelter in place mode following an email threat.
Tony Caldwell /
The lockdown began very briefly after the start of first period. For close to seven hours, each student stayed in the same room in which they started the day, with heavily restricted bathroom trips and no freedom to go to their lockers. They spent the day without official word from the outside, cooped up in classrooms with teachers who knew no more than they did.“It was really quiet, they didn’t tell us anything … they tried to keep us calm, I guess, but it was stressful,” said Grade 10 student Brianna Kelly.“We thought it was a drill, a practice, but then it started becoming longer and longer, and then police cars started to show up,” said Grade 9 student Doreen Voltaire.
Ottawa police officer with a rifle is stationed on the roof of St. Patrick’s High School on Tuesday.
Tony Caldwell /
Students had practised secure school procedures before but were still shocked by the real thing.“There were police everywhere,” in the hallways, said 10th grade student Perpetual Ocheme. “It was actually scary.”Many of the students were glued to their phones, communicating with friends, reassuring parents, and checking social media for any news on the situation.Parent Marty McKale said his daughter messaged him with updates throughout the day and assured him she was safe. “I got a text from her this morning right away,” he said. “It’s nice to be able to have the phone and have communication like that.”As many classrooms had no windows, students messaged each other through Snapchat about the heavy police presence: an officer armed with a rifle stationed on the roof, several more in the schoolyard, and more than a dozen police vehicles parked out front. Some students who showed up too late to get inside took pictures and videos and messaged them into circulation among their peers.The images and videos are shaky and grainy as they zoom in on the rooftop gunman, with captions demonstrating bewilderment from students who were clearly not used to this sort of thing.Several students’ phones died during the course of the day from the constant communication. Unable to go to their lockers, the kids couldn’t get their phone chargers, bus passes or even their lunches — they went all day without eating.Some teachers refrained from opening their packaged lunches all day, not wanting to eat in front of their hungry pupils. Some opted to share what they had with the class. While some may have tried to lead their students in doing classwork early on, it soon became clear that the day inside would be one of quiet and passive confusion.Some students reported feelings of panic and anxiety as the day wore on. During the heavily co-ordinated exodus into the parking lot, the teachers appeared just as tired as their students as they strode to their cars.As of 8 p.m. Tuesday, Ottawa Catholic School Board hadn’t released any public statements regarding changes to the schedule for Wednesday’s school day.With files from Megan Gillis and Norm Provencherjhoytema@postmedia.comTwitter.com/JacobHoytemaAlso in the NewsMontsion defence claims ‘unacceptable state negligence’ as trial resumes with charter motion to dismiss all charges ‘She has to rebuild her whole life:’ $19 million lawsuit filed on behalf of woman who lost legs in OC Transpo crashLarger class sizes will mean cutting 1,800 courses in Ottawa’s public high schools, says report