William Konkin Elementary (WKE) was evacuated on Feb. 28, 2017 after a potentially explosive device that had been brought to the school by a primary student was taken to the principal’s office.
“Due to the realism of the device and potential safety risk, the RCMP were called and a fire alarm was initiated to evacuate all staff and students,” explained School District No. 91 superintended Charlene Seguin.
The RCMP determined that further expertise would be required and that students and staff should follow evacuation protocols by moving to the Muriel Mould Learning Centre.
“The entire sequence above took less than 10 minutes,” described Seguin.
Parents were then asked to pick up their children at the Muriel Mould Learning Centre.
“Within 30 minutes of arriving at Muriel Mould and upon consultation with the RCMP the decision was made to cancel school for the remainder of the day and the process of contacting WKE parents was started,” continued Seguin. “Just prior to noon, all WKE students had been safely picked up by parents and family members.”
The B.C. RCMP Explosive Disposal Unit was immediately sent to Burns Lake to ensure the device was dealt with appropriately.
“We took the step of calling for the Explosive Disposal Unit to attend out of an abundance of caution,” said corporal Aaron Semmler, acting detachment commander for Burns Lake RCMP.
Semmler commended the school’s reaction.
“The principal of the school called us right away when she learned of the device and immediately evacuated all the staff and students,” said Semmler. “Their reaction time was excellent, and it was very reassuring; she [the principal] was able to quickly account for the safety of all staff and students.”
There were no injuries to any staff or students.
Later that day, the B.C. RCMP’s Explosives Disposal Unit confirmed the device was inert, and could not have exploded. The school was then determined safe and open for business as usual.
Since this is an active investigation, School District No. 91 and the Burns Lake RCMP did not comment on the nature of the device, or how it was brought into the school.
The school district said this incident did not involve any received threats.
Parent concerned about school’s protocol
After the evacuation of Willian Konkin Elementary (WKE) on Feb. 28, parent Michel Delasalle said he wasn’t pleased about the way WKE staff conducted the evacuation.
According to Delasalle, when he went to pick up his son from the Muriel Mould Learning Centre, he noticed that his son and many other students did not have their coats on, and some students were not wearing shoes.
“You should’ve seen these kids, it was awful, no shoes, no coats,” said Delasalle. “In their procedures, they never looked at the kids.”
“My kid complained, he was freezing, I took my coat off and put it on his back,” he added.
The concerned father said the school district should admit if they made a mistake.
“When you’ve done [something] wrong, admit you’ve done wrong so you can correct it,” he said.
In a letter to parents, School District No. 91 (Nechako Lakes) superintendent Charlene Seguin said leaving the building without coats was part of the school’s protocol.
“We understand that parents were concerned about outside temperatures, but evacuation protocols require students and staff to leave the building immediately with only what they have with them,” she explained.
Manu Madhok, assistant superintendent for School District No. 91, said it was clear that WKE students and staff were knowledgeable about emergency protocols as evidenced by how quickly they were able to evacuate the school.
“School district officials, the Burns Lake RCMP and the Burns Lake Fire Department all commented on how impressed they were with the speed and orderliness of the evacuation by WKE staff and students,” he said. “All School District 91 schools regularly practice a variety of emergency drills related to student safety, including fire drill and lockdown practices.”