News

Elementary school goes on lock down

Officials locked down Oak Harbor Elementary School for a brief time Thursday while police officers searched a car after a traffic stop.

Police arrested Oak Harbor resident Michael Hardesty on two felony drug warrants out of Bellingham. The school was locked down as a precaution, Oak Harbor Police Sgt. Tim Sterkel said. Hardesty was booked into Island County jail.

“We weren’t going to stop him by the school,” Sterkel said. “I guess he saw all of the police cars, though.”

School employees rounded the children up while officers searched the car across the street. The school remained on lock down for approximately five to 10 mintues, District Communications Director Joe Hunt said.

“We greatly appreciate the fact (police) were able to think that quickly and let the school know,” Hunt said. “They not only were quick in protecting the elementary school, but they realized the middle school was about to get out.”

Sterkel said he had been “doing surveillance” on Hardesty for a couple of days. He suspected that Hardesty was armed, but only found knives in the car. Also, he said police recovered a substance suspected of being methamphetamine from Hardesty.

A parent notified North Whidbey Middle School and the principal, Doug Kyles, ran to the scene, which was a few blocks away, Hunt said. Police advised Kyles to have the middle school students stay across the street, he said.

Oak Harbor Elementary Principal Dorothy Day said that most of the students and staff thought it was a drill.

“We had been working with staff on a lock down drill,” she said. “When it happened, most of the students and staff thought it was a drill.”

When the school is requested to lock down, the process is simple, she said. Teachers are given a code via the intercom system. After the announcement, doors and windows are locked, blinds are lowered and the students are gathered on the floor of the classroom.

“Then the teacher keeps them entertained until we get the all clear,” Day said.

The children remained calm throughout the short time, she said. They received only limited details as to what happened.

“We just told them, ‘the police are trying to keel you safe,’ ” Day said.

You can reach News-Times reporter Eric Berto at eberto@whidbeynewstimes.com

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