Upper school activates lockdown, campus “all clear”

A+chair+leans+against+the+door+of+upper+school+English+teacher+Susanne+Salhabs+room+to+act+as+a+barricade+during+todays+campus+lockdown.+After+the+lockdown+from+approximately+5+p.m.+to+6%3A10+p.m.%2C+police+have+cleared+the+campus+of+a+potential+threat.+

Sally Zhu

A chair leans against the door of upper school English teacher Susanne Salhab’s room to act as a barricade during today’s campus lockdown. After the lockdown from approximately 5 p.m. to 6:10 p.m., police have cleared the campus of a potential threat.

by Isha Moorjani, Felix Chen, Sally Zhu, and Tiffany Chang

The upper school campus activated lockdown protocol this evening from approximately 5 p.m. to 6:10 p.m., and police have now cleared the campus of a potential threat. 

At approximately 5 p.m., the barking dog alarm sounded through campus, signaling a potential unknown intruder on school grounds. Teachers and staff ushered students into buildings and into their rooms for the duration of the lockdown, where they built barricades and followed lockdown protocol, which includes staying inside a classroom and remaining hidden from view. 

Associated Student Body (ASB) President Kris Estrada (12) was watching the junior varsity water polo game against Lynbrook High School at the Singh Aquatic Center when the alarm sounded from the field.  

“I ran towards the Athletic Center and down to one of the locker rooms where we immediately barricaded the doors, turned off the lights, and we were there for about an hour,” Kris said. “It was a surreal experience for sure because I had never experienced such a situation where I had no idea what was going on, especially at Harker because I don’t expect to actually hear that sound.”

Head of School Brian Yager updated staff approximately every ten minutes about the situation, with the first one at 5:11 p.m. Administration communicated via updates with parents through email and the emergency texting system. Yager also gave an announcement to students and staff on campus toward the end of the lockdown over the speakers. 

“We think it was a button that got pushed, hopefully accidentally, and we’ll be looking into [it] in the days ahead,” Yager said over the speakers. “Right now the police are finishing a sweep of the campus to make sure there’s no issue, and once they give us the all clear, we will clear one building at a time and [Upper School Division Head Paul] Mr. Barsky or I will enter each building.”

According to the emergency texting system, police arrived by 5:25 p.m. They individually cleared each of the campus buildings before Barsky and Yager officially ended the lockdown. 

“Police investigated,” the emergency texting system wrote at 6:09 p.m. “All clear, likely false alarm. All safe, activities and games resumed. All shuttles diverted to Boynton.”

I ran towards the Athletic Center and down to one of the locker rooms where we immediately barricaded the doors, turned off the lights, and we were there for about an hour … This afternoon has definitely been unexpected, so I will definitely remember how it was handled well by not only administration and faculty and police, but also our students”

— ASB President Kris Estrada (12)

Melody Yin (10) was watching the junior varsity boys water polo game when the alarm went off, and she took shelter in the pool office. 

“It was very stressful,” Melody said. “As time passed, and we realized there wasn’t anyone coming over, we got a little bit more worried.”

Many upper school sports teams, including junior varsity girls volleyball and junior varsity boys water polo, were in the middle of games when the lockdown occurred, and other teams were in practice. Following the all-clear, all sports games and other activities planned for this evening will continue as planned. As students left the classrooms and united with friends, there was a general sense of relief.

“Right now, students are okay, they’re walking around, and there was a sense of unity throughout the entire process,” Kris said. “And this afternoon has definitely been unexpected, so I will definitely remember how it was handled well by not only administration and faculty and police, but also our students.”

Upper School Admission Director Jennifer Hargreaves and several students barricaded themselves in her office during the lockdown. According to another email from Yager, the school will investigate more into the situation to find out why the alarm sounded.

“They’re going to try to figure out why it went off and make sure that doesn’t happen again,” Hargreaves said. “If there are false alarms, then people won’t listen when it’s a real one.”

Tomorrow, the school will communicate more about the findings of the investigation, and counselors will also be available in their Shah offices to speak with any students or staff members about today’s events.

Additional reporting by Olivia Xu and Jonny Xue.