LYNN — After a teacher discovered on Monday morning that Hood Elementary School was hit by gunfire sometime over the weekend, some parents are upset they weren’t notified until the end of the school day.
Following the overnight damage to the school’s portable classroom addition, Lynn Police Chief Michael Mageary said there hasn’t been a threat to the school that’s been received, but there will be a police presence at Hood for at least the remainder of the week while the investigation continues.
“The safety of staff and students is of utmost importance to us,” Mageary said. “We’re going to make sure your kids are safe.”
Mageary spoke at a community meeting Monday evening for parents at Hood School. Parents were also concerned about the school’s alarm system. The shooting happened over the weekend, but the shots didn’t set off the alarm and police were unaware of the incident until Monday when damage was discovered by a teacher.
“It’s very stressful knowing that this happened and I wasn’t notified until the end,” said Gabrielle Collins, whose 9-year-old daughter attends Hood School, in an interview with The Item after the meeting.
“I wish there was a better system to notify us because this is something serious and we should, as parents, have the knowledge that if we feel our kids are threatened, we should keep them home or send them to school. That should be our opinion and that wasn’t the case. I didn’t get the notification until 1:45 this afternoon so it kind of freaked me out a little bit.”
Superintendent Dr. Patrick Tutwiler said the late automated all-call to parents was intentional. If there was a call earlier in the day for the incident, parents may have come to the school, which would have conflicted with the school administration’s goal of providing a normal school day for students.
“We really believe there is great comfort for students in the normal routine of the school day,” Tutwiler said. “We reserve all calls during the school day for situations wherein there’s immediate danger. I’m not trying to marginalize its importance, but at no point during the school day at Hood School were students in danger.”
Still, Tutwiler called the incident “disconcerting on a number of levels,” referring to both the shooting itself and the lack of attention to it happening over the weekend.
Mageary said the preliminary investigation revealed that people may have heard the shots fired at the school, but didn’t report them to police. Over the past week, there have been a number of shots fired incidents throughout the city, but at this point, police don’t believe there’s a threat posed to the school, he said.
“Obviously, we take this very seriously,” said Mayor Thomas M. McGee. “If you hear something, you really have to say something and tell the police.”
Around 8 a.m. on Monday, a Hood teacher found some damage in one of the classrooms of the portable addition to the school. Shots had been fired through the walls and windows and the teacher found spent ammunition.
Upon the discovery, the school’s Principal Gayle Dufour was called, who notified police, Tutwiler and Police Officer Oren Wright, the school safety and emergency planning liaison.
The portable addition houses the school’s three kindergarten classes. There were no students in the portable at any time on Monday, Tutwiler said. Kindergarten students were moved first to the auditorium and then to the main building’s two technology labs for the rest of the day.
Tutwiler praised the “immediate” response from police and said students were unaware anything happened and thought they were having a regular school day despite the move for some of them.
The city’s Inspectional Services Department repaired the damage on Monday and kindergarten students are expected to move back to their classrooms on Tuesday.
“I think the idea (of the police presence this week) is to provide some calm, a sense of things are OK and there’s support here,” Tutwiler said. “I think that’s really what that’s about, but it seems to me based on timing and sort of the random nature of the incident, that this was not an attempt to hurt anyone.”
Despite the reassurances, some parents are still shaken up.
Laura Moir, who has a 10-year-old son at Hood, said she panicked when the call came in half an hour before parents were set to pick up their kids from school. When the call came in, it had been hours after the damage was discovered and the call didn’t tell her anything other than there were rounds fired at the school.
She said it’s also concerning that only the parent listed as the student’s primary contact is notified, rather than both parents.
“I wish there was a better system in place to reassure us as parents that the kids are safe,” Moir said, adding that she found it “very disturbing and upsetting” that the alarm didn’t go off when shots were fired at the school.
School Committee member Michael Satterwhite said he found it informative to sit in the community meeting with parents, as their questions and concerns helped him process the situation through their perspective.
“I’m a parent of a fifth-grader so what happens in Lynn schools directly impacts my family,” Satterwhite said. “We do not have a city-wide policy with parents after a situation, so I believe we need to review this while making sure each parent is informed or knows how to be put on a list to be informed of situations in their child’s school. We also need to have an agreement with ISD on how often our alarm systems are inspected.”