Middle schools evacuated after bomb threat

By KATIE HOOS

For the fourth time this school year, police have investigated phone calls threatening the safety of students, teachers and faculty in the City School District of New Rochelle, troubling parents and leading them to question evacuation protocols within the district.

After a non-specific bomb threat to a New Rochelle middle school last week, Albert Leonard Middle School was evacuated. One parent expressed concern over the inconsistency of evacuation procedures among schools. File photo

After a non-specific bomb threat to a New Rochelle middle school last week, Albert Leonard Middle School was evacuated. One parent expressed concern over the inconsistency of evacuation procedures among schools. File photo

At around noon on Wednesday, March 5, state police received a 911 call from an anonymous person about a bomb in a New Rochelle middle school. The caller did not specify between the district’s two middle schools, Albert Leonard Middle School, located at 25 Grenada Ave., or Isaac Young Middle School, located at 270 Centre Ave., so school officials evacuated both buildings.

According to Capt. Joseph Schaller of the New Rochelle Police Department, when po-
lice arrived, both middle schools were already conducting an evacuation.

After investigating both school buildings, police officers determined there were no bombs present and eventually determined the buildings were safe to re-enter 30 minutes after the evacuations. Classes resumed as normal for the remainder of the day.

Some Albert Leonard school parents are troubled by the recent bomb threat and say the evacuation was poorly executed.

John D’Alois, whose daughter attends Albert Leonard, is concerned the school district did not properly evaluate the severity of the threat and according to D’Alois, the two middle schools followed different evacuation procedures.

After receiving word of the threat, D’Alois, who spoke to students at Isaac Young, said students at that school were evacuated immediately and the fire alarm went off to signify the evacuation, while Albert Leonard students were given time to put their coats on and were evacuated to the side of the school building.

“I don’t know how [the school district] is evaluating the threat,” D’Alois said. “I’m not comfortable with people taking their time figuring out a plan of action.”

D’Alois also expressed his concerns in regards to where the students and staff were evacuated to.

According to D’Alois, the students were taken to the side of the school building, not far from the building itself.

“If you’re responding to a percieved threat, which could be explosives, why have children stand near school?” he said. “Are protocols actually being followed or are they being waned because they find it more to be a nuisance?”

D’Alois said he and his wife, Barbara, were notified of the threat and subsequent evacuation through the city school district’s electronic notification system, which sends out email and text message notifications regarding school closures, evacuations, PTA meetings and other
information.

The City School District of New Rochelle did not comment when asked about the inconsistencies in the Albert Leonard and Isaac Young evacuation procedures, but provided the following statement on last week’s threat.

“In response to a non-specific bomb threat received by the New York State Police, both CSDNR middle schools were safely and successfully evacuated last week. Both evacuations were completed with the full cooperation and presence of the New Rochelle Police Department, both middle school security teams and middle school administrative leaders. Once students were evacuated at both schools, school security staff and the New Rochelle Police Department did thorough checks of each building and determined within 30 minutes both school buildings were safe for the return of students and staff.”

Earlier in the school year, police responded to three other incidents in which a caller threatened the safety of New Rochelle High School. On Nov. 20, a call was made to the principal and assistant principal’s office, indicating the building would be harmed, leading to the evacuation and early dismissal of students and staff.

Police investigated the building and determined there was no threat present.

The high school was again evacuated on the morning of Dec. 2, 2013, after the school received a call “to get everyone out of the building by 8 a.m.,” according to the school district. Classes resumed around 10 a.m. after police investigators declared the building was safe.

New Rochelle High School received a third threatening phone call the following day, Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2013, but the building was not evacuated.

With four serious threats over the school year, D’Alois hopes the district improves the consistency of its protocols and procedures.

“If I were in their shoes, I would want to weigh on the side of caution,” he said. “The risk is just too high.”

The New Rochelle Police Department continues to investigate all of the threats and according to Capt. Schaller, there is no evidence that the school year’s four threatening incidents are related. “We’ve had them in the past, so this year is nothing out of the ordinary,” Schaller said.

CONTACT: katie@hometwn.com