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Walker Upper Elementary School student recounts lockdown

Thirty-six hours after a shooting at the University of Virginia killed three people and injured two others, Walker Upper Elementary School was the victim of a hoax active shooter call on Tuesday morning.

At 10:46 a.m., Charlottesville police received a 911 call reporting an active shooter at Walker. Police called the school to say they were on their way, but the school was not aware of any unusual activity. Parents were notified at 10:56 a.m. of the call and students were released from lockdown at 11:09 a.m.

This was the fourth swatting—a false report of an emergency—that Charlottesville City Schools have seen since Sept. 19. It came 24 hours after UVa students emerged from a 12-hour shelter-in-place order.

"The whole time I was scared. And then after I felt annoyed. We just went through all that for nothing. When my mom came home I was over it," said Shae Kelty, age 10.

Shae is in the fifth grade at Walker. She was returning to her classroom from physical education when the lockdown was called.

"We started freaking out," Shae said. "Most of the kids were under the desks."

Students in city schools did not have class on Monday as UVa was still under a shelter-in-place order while police searched for the suspect. City schools resumed classes Tuesday knowing that while “we’ll have a normal schedule, we know it will not be a normal day,” superintendent Royal Gurley Jr. wrote in a message to families.

Previously, Charlottesville High School received a fake active shooter call on Sept. 19. Buford Middle School was the target of a swatting twice within the span of one month: on Sept. 20 and Oct. 20.

Walker students were under lockdown for 18 minutes from the time police arrived until they gave the all-clear, Charlottesville City Schools spokesperson Amanda Korman said.

Shae said that almost all of the students were silent during the lockdown.

"Well, there was one kid talking because he was scared, and he wanted to call his mom," Shae, said. She was scared too, especially when she heard her friend start sobbing.

"I was hugging her. And I felt really, really bad because I didn’t know what was happening."

City schools sent a message to Walker families at 11:09 a.m. Tuesday.

“Again, all students and staff are safe. Police have now cleared the building and found no threat. Police arrived at Walker after receiving a 911 call about an active shooter at the school. However, the inspection found no weapon or other threat to students. Students are briefly being held indoors now but we will soon resume our regular bell schedule. We know these hoax reports are extremely stressful to students, staff, and families,” the message read.

“My 10-year-old called me in tears. Our kids are not ok,” UVa professor Kristen Naegle tweeted.

Charlottesville police advised families to check in with their children in a press release. “Especially after this week’s tragedy at UVA, we understand the anxiety and stress these hoaxes cause our community,” the press release read. It recommended using mental health services offered by city schools or CareSolace. School officials also brought a therapy dog in for students this afternoon.

The rest of the school day, Korman said, continued as normal.


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