Children were back on the playground and in the classroom one day after law enforcement agencies from across Chittenden County descended on the Winooski school, prompting the complex to go into lockdown. About 40-50 students and 20 staff members were trapped inside.
The incident started with a home invasion on nearby Weaver Street. The two armed suspects then reportedly went up the street, and took a right turn onto Tigan toward school property. And at least one of them was tracked by police dogs onto school grounds.
Then came a 911 call saying a man with a gun was inside the school. Police at first thought the call came from an eyewitness inside the school.
"We are learning now that that was not the case," Winooski Police Chief Steve McQueen said. "It was a third-party report that the person who called 911 had received a call from a person in the school, who called them, who said they were in lockdown and not sure why. The second caller called 911, claiming that the shooter is in the school, so there was definitely some misinformation there and that led to the initial response."
And the lockdown highlighted a potential problem with the system; police say because the incident happened after school hours, there was no one in the school office to initiate the lockdown. Police found the maintenance director outside the building and he came into the superintendent's office and they initiated the lockdown.
"I think the one thing we would look at is to build into our drill schedule over the course of the year that we would run drills at different hours," said Sean McMannon, the Winooski school superintendent. "So, while we have a great system when students are in session between 8 and 3 o'clock, that there are different activities that happen during the evenings and different folks in the building using the building like we want them to because this is a community center."
McMannon says additional drills may be added so those using the buildings after school hours are familiar with the lockdown procedures. He says all exterior doors are locked during school and after-school hours. And students need an adult who has access to the building to let them in.
McMannon says school personnel and their public safety committee will meet with Winooski police next week to get into the details and reflect on what happened.
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