AUBURN — Two Edward Little High School parents expressed worry about how a bomb threat Monday was handled at Edward Little High School and said a lockdown at the school was not the way to go.
Melissa Robbins told the Auburn School Committee on Wednesday night that everything she heard about how the bomb threat was handled Monday “is very scary and disappointing to me. The fact that the No. 1 thing was not to evacuate is very concerning.”
And to have a lockdown after a bomb threat “is a bad idea, until you know for sure," she said. "I've never heard of a lockdown after a bomb threat.”
Robbins told the School Committee she was concerned that the bomb threat was not taken seriously.
Assistant Superintendent Katy Grondin said the threat was taken very seriously, that safety was the top priority and that there was no lockdown at the school.
“I'm very confident we took every step possible," Grondin said. "We would never put your student, or any student, in jeopardy.”
The decision not to evacuate the high school was based on the information officials had. Grondin said she couldn't disclose that information, except to say a student had been charged in the incident.
Robbins countered that students were told they were in a lockdown: “You ask any student.” During the bomb threat, she and her daughter were in Massachusetts on a college visit.
“My daughter's cell-phone texting didn't stop for an hour,” Robbins said. “There was an announcement made for teachers to check their e-mails. Teachers checked their e-mails, then told the students, 'We are in lockdown.' So, either students were lied to about the lockdown, or you were.”
Grondin said no one was lied to, but there was confusion. The principal told her there was confusion about whether the school was in a lockdown, Grondin said.
Parent Kimberly Bantos asked about the policy and procedures for bomb threats, after Robbins said there was nothing in the policy book about how they're to be handled.
Grondin said there are procedures, but they are not public.
“You don't always evacuate every single time," she said. "You have to take into account information."
School administrators worked with Auburn police, she said. "As information came in, they made that decision based on knowledge I can't share with you.”
Parents also asked about the school's "probation" accreditation status, wondering whether it could hurt students applying to college.
School Committee Chairman David Das said he has asked that question of colleges and was told it could be a concern, but “no one comes out and says 'yes' or 'no.'”
The accreditation probation has not kept Edward Little students from getting into colleges, Grondin said.
Das explained that Edward Little's accreditation was moved from warning to probation because of the physical condition of the high school, especially the lack of science facilities.
The School Department has applied for state construction money to repair EL or build a new school, which would take the accreditation off probation.
Auburn should find out this spring whether it will receive state money. If it does not get funding, the community will have to decide whether it will pay for a new or improved high school on its own, Das said.