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Protocols Ensure School Safety At Elementary
California Avenue Elementary School had Riverbank Police Services and the Sheriffs Department bomb squad on site on Aug. 27 due to a suspicious black leather backpack that was discarded in the shrubs next to the schools library. - photo by VIRGINIA STILL/THE NEWS

An early morning suspicious ‘find’ near the California Avenue Elementary School provided some anxious moments but ultimately was determined to pose no threat to the facility.

On the morning of Tuesday, Aug. 27, said school officials, a custodian found a backpack in the shrubs in front of the library facing California Avenue. The school has strict protocols that if there are suspicious circumstances they need to call the police. Accordingly, a call was made to the Riverbank Police Services and acting Chief Erin Kiely and a few other deputies quickly arrived on the scene.

“The bag didn’t look like any bags that our kids have,” said California Avenue Principal Sean Richey.

The deputies determined that the circumstances were suspicious enough to justify the evacuation of the classrooms that were in close proximity to where the backpack was discarded. Those students were then placed in other classrooms that were a safe distance away. Officers cordoned off the area and helped direct foot traffic away from the scene.

The Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department bomb squad was dispatched and when they arrived they sent out a robot to examine the bag. Eventually a deputy in protective gear had to go out and X-ray the bag so they could see the contents and they were able to determine that the backpack did not contain any explosive devices. Deputies also checked it for other paraphernalia and found there was nothing dangerous in the bag.

There was an announcement made to the students and their parents were also notified of the situation. Approximately 20 to 25 students were picked up by their parents, who chose to take them out of school. The other students stayed in their classrooms and proceeded with their school day.

“I was really impressed with how our parents and our students and staff responded during this,” said Richey. “I mean it was a little stressful but everyone was very calm.”

The authorities secured the backpack and removed it from the premises. The staff and students were then able to resume their normal school day.