HOLDEN, Mass. — Holden town officials are hoping to develop better communication procedures with the school district for emergency situations after a brief scare Wednesday, when news spread via parents and social media that Dawson Elementary School was possibly on lockdown.
Holden Police were called to the school Wednesday when a distraught woman was allowed into the school among parents attending the annual holiday concert around 11 a.m., according to Wachusett Regional School District superintendent Anthony Gasbarro.
"Though there was nothing overtly threatening about her actions, her demeanor caused office staff to feel uncomfortable and she was escorted outside," he explained in a Connect-Ed call that went out to parents at 4 p.m. "I believe strongly that these actions were appropriate and necessary as our first priority is always to keep our students and staff safe. I would like to commend the staff at Dawson Elementary School and the Holden police for their careful handling of this incident."
While the school was not officially under lockdown, a "Shelter in Place" was called and while students were sheltered in their classrooms, parents attending the concert were instructed to stay in the gym until the police were satisfied that no threat was present.
Holden Selectman Bob Lavigne said information shared with town and public safety officials about the incident was unclear. The first report relayed to him was an email from the town manager saying the school was not on lockdown.
"Then I got calls from people who were inside saying that the principal made the call to lock the school down," he said.
Posts on Facebook about the incident also differed.
"As good as social media sites can be, they can start rumors," said Lavigne. "I'm a big believer in trying to get out in front of things with the truth."
While the selectman praised the handling of the situation inside the school, looking forward he hoped to see the communication process fine-tuned.
"We need to build a better process to increase communication, first off with our front-line responders so that they know what they're going into, and secondly to the parents, so that everyone feels more at ease," said Lavigne.