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Few details as police, board close EDSS on Monday

Beyond announcing Monday’s closure of EDSS, police and school board officials added very little else, leaving the community with few answers.

Safety concerns prompted the move, but even a press conference hastily cobbled together Monday provided little in the way of details.

On Sunday morning at an unspecified time, an administrator at the high school received a communication from a still unidentified individual, specifically referencing the school, giving authorities reason to show concern for the wellbeing of the individual and the school population. The decision was made to close the school for the full day on Feb. 1, despite scheduled exams, while police investigated.

Waterloo Regional Police Staff Sgt. Michael Haffner and Waterloo Regional District School Board (WRDSB) superintendent of student achievement and wellbeing Peter Rubenschuh were on hand at the police detachment in Elmira at 11 a.m. on Monday morning to answer questions.

Haffner said the communication was non-specific, and they are still trying to determine who initiated contact with the administrator. For now, police are at EDSS determining if there is any kind of threat against students and staff.

“The message, or communication, that is involved in this investigation is not specific at all. Ultimately, that is the whole point of contacting the person responsible, to ensure their safety,” he said. “That is the whole point of the investigation, to evaluate the circumstances and the reasons why the individual did contact the administrator. Ultimately, we will evaluate that when we have more information.”

Police spent the day at the school, conducting searches for anything unusual.

“We are conducting a number of security checks at the school, but more importantly we are revaluating this as we continue, and collaborating with the school board so they can make the proper decisions,” said Haffner. “We are simply looking for anything that may be out of place to ensure the safety and security as best we can.”

Elmira District Secondary School was closed on Monday after a staffer received a non-specific communication, causing the school board and local police concern. Officers were at the school all day Monday looking for anything out of place or threatening.[Liz Bevan / The Observer]
Elmira District Secondary School was closed on Monday after a staffer received a non-specific communication, causing the school board and local police concern. Officers were at the school all day Monday looking for anything out of place or threatening. [Liz Bevan / The Observer]

Rubenschuh said the decision to close the school was precautionary, and an example of the close relationship the school board has with police.

“In this circumstance, they have expertise and resources that we rely heavily to support us in this situation,” he said of the board’s relationship with the WRPS. “I think whenever we have those kinds of situations, I think it just reminds us of our vigilance and the importance to maintain our focus on safety and security, but it is just as important to deal with the prevention and early intervention. This is just a situation where I think we want to take all reasonable measures to ensure that our students, staff and broader community are safe.”

The school reopened the following day, with the examination schedule restarting for EDSS students. Police were on hand in case anything unusual occurred, but Haffner said there was no new information on Tuesday.

There was mention of surrounding facilities, including the Woolwich Memorial Centre and nearby elementary schools, but police say the communication was centered around the high school.

The WRDSB first announced the closure late in the evening of Jan. 31. Exams were postponed by one day, with Feb. 1 exams written on Feb. 2, and exams scheduled for Feb. 2 moved to Feb. 4. Wednesday remained a professional development day, as previously scheduled.

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