Update: Details released regarding San Gabriel school closure
Update Sept. 21, 7:30 a.m.
– The Atascadero Unified School District hosted an informational parent meeting last Thursday. For any parents that were unable to attend, a resource guide to support their child was made available. The resource guide has also been placed on the AUSD website for all parents.
At this time, classes and transportation will remain in their temporary locations. The Atascadero Unified School District is still waiting for the laboratory results from the initial monitoring that was completed. They will notify families as soon as any information becomes available.
Original story posted Sept. 18, 12:05 p.m.
– On Thursday evening, the Atascadero Police Department, in conjunction with the Atascadero Unified School District, held informational meetings for the staff and parents from San Gabriel School. The meetings were also attended by representatives from the San Luis Obispo Sheriff’s Department and the Atascadero Fire Department. The meetings were held for the purpose of providing information and reassurance to staff and parents related to the eventual reopening of San Gabriel School. The meetings were not open to the general public.
On the morning of Sept. 11 at approximately 7:45 a.m., police received a report of a crime committed at San Gabriel Elementary. It appears that on the night of Sept. 10 or the early morning of Sept. 11 there were chains and padlocks placed on the exterior gates of the campus by an unknown suspect, as well as threatening letters placed outside of each classroom. A suspicious object full of liquid was also found on the playground.
The locks were removed by personnel working at the school. The locks were placed prior to the children entering the campus and it does not appear that this was an attempt to trap the children on school grounds.
The names of teachers were written on the envelopes of the letters, but at no time was a specific child identified by name or mentioned directly in the threat. The exact contents of the letter are not being released by police. Testing was completed on the letters and no harmful substance was detected in the letters. There was no known exposure of any student or staff member to the harmful chemicals located on the campus during this investigation.
The object found on the playground was safely retrieved and the liquid material was presumptively tested. The liquid tested positive for a dangerous chemical substance. This heightened the safety concerns for public safety officials and the Atascadero Unified School District (AUSD) staff. The Atascadero Police Department is working with representatives from the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) to conduct additional testing on the chemical substance.
Based on the threats made in the letters left on the school campus, additional law enforcement and public safety officials responded to the school to assist. These resources included representatives from the San Luis Obispo Sheriff’s Department Bomb Squad and San Luis Obispo County Hazardous Materials Team.
At no time was there a bomb mentioned or located on the San Gabriel School grounds, according to police. The incident appears to be isolated to the San Gabriel School campus and no ongoing threat has been identified.
At the recommendation and direction of law enforcement the AUSD has kept the school closed temporarily while further investigative work is completed.
Also at the request and direction of law enforcement and the County Hazardous Materials Team, the AUSD has hired an industrial cleaning company to complete a thorough inspection of the school. While it does not appear that any child or faculty member was exposed to the chemical substance, the school district and law enforcement have decided to act with an abundance of caution by completing this inspection.
The investigation into this matter is ongoing. According to Atascadero Police Chief Jerel Haley, “Everybody is a suspect,” at this time, however Haley did say that there are some individuals who are being looked at more closely. At this time there is no set date for the reopening of the school.
Anyone with information about this incident is encouraged to contact the Atascadero Police Department immediately at (805) 461-5051.
Due to the ongoing nature of the investigation, no further details specific to the investigation will be released at this time.