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Coquitlam students evacuated after bomb threat

An RCMP officer stands outside Dr. Charles Best secondary school in Coquitlam Thursday. - Colleen Flanagan/
An RCMP officer stands outside Dr. Charles Best secondary school in Coquitlam Thursday.
— image credit: Colleen Flanagan/

Shortly after 10:20 a.m. yesterday, students at Dr. Charles Best secondary school were told to lock their doors, turn out the lights and huddle in a corner.

The school was in lock-down after somebody had called in a bomb threat.

More than 1,200 students, teachers and staff spent 45 minutes that way — they huddle in the corner to avoid being spotted by a person who might be roaming the halls — before being told to turn off their cell phones.

"This time, the principal said it's not a drill," said Grade 10 student Bahareh Tabar, admitting it was a scary thing to hear and that some students were crying.

By 11:40 a.m. they were evacuated, half to Coquitlam Alliance church and the other half to Ranch Park elementary. At Coquitlam Alliance, students crowded into the chapel and lobby area, where they were told their parents would have to come and sign them each out individually.

It didn't take long for a chaotic crush of parents to arrive amid a thick blanketing of snow.

Two moms waiting in the parent sign-in line, which by 1 p.m. snaked through the church parking lot, were frustrated.

"As a parent, I was terrified when my daughter told me they were doing lock-down drills at school," said the mother of a Grade 12 student. "But they're less worried than we are now. I don't think as parents we had enough information about what would happen in this event."

The mother, who declined to give her name, added that she was far more worried about a gunman coming into the school than a bomb threat.

Other parents in an adjoining lobby had similar sentiments, saying that bomb threats are "always false alarms" and that everybody is "paranoid."

Coquitlam RCMP Cpl. Brenda Gresiuk said police take all bomb threats seriously and told the approximately 200 parents waiting in line, "Our priority is the safety of your kids." Officers and a bomb-sniffing dog were scouring the school and that was expected to take some time.

DPAC president and Coquitlam Coun. Richard Stewart, who has two children and a niece and nephew attending Best, admitted the process wasn't going as smoothly as hoped and that parents, including those from Centennial secondary, would be asked to fill out a survey on how the process could be improved so parents get better and more timely information.

spayne@tricitynews.com

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