By Lukas Eggen
Ely Times Staff Writer

White Pine Middle School contacted law enforcement after reporting hearing noises after school last Thursday.

“We heard two noises,” Principal Sharyl Allen said. “…Basically what we said is we heard these (things) go off, like little bottle bombs, so (the police) came and it’s left in their hands.”

Allen said two bottles were found, one underneath a car in a parking area and another down the street. The sheriff’s office could not be reached for comment, but Allen said that staff members went to investigate before deciding on further appropriate actions to take.

“The first sound, we had our staff to go investigate,” Allen said. “We had lots of things going on, cheer practice and other kinds of things. Because it was away from the building and off the school campus grounds, we did not go into a protocol of evacuation or anything else. We notified law enforcement that they had an issue. At that point, it’s not a school issue because we don’t know if it was a middle school student…I think the best way to describe it is it was homemade and you put stuff inside of them. As you know, household chemicals can cause an explosion. But no one was injured and I don’t believe anyone was near them when they went off.”

School safety is a hot button issue across the nation because of recent tragedies, including a school shooting at Sparks Middle School in Nevada. But Allen said the school, and the district, are doing everything they can to educate staff and students in order to help make schools safer on a daily basis.

“We’re doing our utmost to keep the schools safe and dealing with the variables that are continuously coming at us,” Allen said. “When parents say I want my child’s safety guaranteed, my response is that I can’t guarantee that any more for you than you can guarantee your child’s safety crossing the street…What I can promise is that we will be aware, that we will do drills, that we will talk to your kids, that we will practice and that we will do training with our staff. I can promise we’ll keep law enforcement involved to try and increase the likelihood of for your child.”

Finding her way

As White Pine Middle School inches toward the holidays, Allen said her first few months a principal of WPMS have been some of the best in her career.

“We’re having an adventure sometimes, but I really enjoy working with the staff and the kids,” Allen said. “…It’s fantastic. I get to work with 300 amazing kids, how could it be anything but fantastic?”

Allen said she’s working to get a better understanding of both her faculty members and the student population. Included in that effort will be meetings with a group of students to discuss issues students feel are important as well as to gauge student reaction to possible ideas going forward.

“Today’s group was very verbal,” Allen said. “They shared some of the insights and things that they think I need to pay attention too. That’s what I was asking, what do you think about this idea or that one? And they’ll tell me they like this one or I don’t know about that one. I meet twice a month with a group of faculty members and the same kinds of things happen. We’re starting the parents’ academy to help the parents know what we’re doing here and how they can support their kids.”

While Allen said she’ll continue to learn more about the teachers, faculty and students, the 2013 -14 school year is looking to be a successful one.

“We’re starting to put some of those little puzzle pieces together,” Allen said.