KAHULUI - Maui High School and Kahului Elementary School were placed under lockdown for about 1 hours Monday after a report of a man, possibly armed with a firearm, jumping a fence to get on the high school campus, police said.
No suspect was found following classroom-by-classroom searches at both schools, said police spokesman Lt. Wayne Ibarra.
Leila Hayashida, acting complex area superintendent, said students and teachers were notified about the suspicious person and followed standard safety protocols.
Maui police officers make classroom-by-classroom checks on the West Papa Avenue side of Maui High School on Monday morning.
The Maui News / CHRIS SUGIDONO photo
"The number-one priority is student safety," said Hayashida, who was at the elementary school during the lockdown. "We strictly treat every single situation seriously, and both schools followed protocol perfectly."
At around 10:47 a.m., an anonymous female caller reported seeing a man about 16 years old, thinly built and about 5 foot 3 inches tall entering the high school campus by jumping over a fence near banana patches off West Papa Avenue, said Ibarra in a news release. The caller said the man was concealing a black handgun under his shirt.
The man also was described as having wavy, medium-length hair and was wearing a white shirt with jeans.
After being notified about the possible suspect on campus from the Maui Police Department's school resource officer, Vice Principal Chris Bachaus initiated the lockdown. Neighboring Kahului Elementary School followed suit and was placed under lockdown at about 11:14 a.m.
Wailuku patrol officers arrived shortly after, with assistance from four other police divisions and units. Police teams swept the campus starting from the banana patch area, Ibarra said.
Mel Agatep, who lives on West Papa Avenue and directly across the campus, said he was washing his car for about 30 to 45 minutes before the high school initiated the lockdown.
"All of a sudden, I saw students slamming the window shades shut," he said pointing at about a half dozen portable classrooms adjacent to his driveway. "I thought they were going home, and then I saw all the police show up."
Joseph Kaniaupio, a parent of two daughters attending the high school, said his daughters texted him about the lockdown and that police were surrounding the school. He and his wife drove straight to the high school and parked outside the front of the campus.
They waited there with about another half dozen other parents.
Hayashida understood the parents' concern over serious situations such as this one, but technology, including texting, can cause panic and create more harm than good.
"During these situations, information gets out so quickly, phones get tied up and parents try to get to the school," she said. "It creates a problem, because we need to let the professionals do their jobs."
Police officers conducted checks of classrooms and offices at both campuses, finding no one matching the description of the gunman, Ibarra said.
Maui High School re-opened near noon, while Kahului Elementary School opened again at 12:30 p.m.
The incident, which gave students a "longer lunch period than usual," did not disrupt any learning time, and Hayashida said she was proud of the way students and teachers handled the situation.
"Every staff member knew what to do in that situation, and there was no panic from the kids," she said. "They did a great job."
During the lockdown, high school parents were notified of the lockdown via voicemail, which helped calm many parents, she said. A letter also has been sent to parents at the high school and the elementary schools to inform them of what happened.
Police were continuing their investigation.
* Chris Sugidono can be reached at email@example.com.