This article has been updated to include a statement from the CHS Principal, Dr. Lovie Lilly.
Columbia High School was evacuated shortly after 2 p.m. today, and the Maplewood Police Department, Maplewood Fire Department and Nutley Hazmat are on the scene.
According to reports from students, the call to evacuate came shortly after lunch. Parker Avenue was closed off, with police cars blocking it. Students were sent to the back of the school on the athletic fields, grouped by class, and were orderly and calm.
At around 2:30 p.m., students and staff were let back into the building.
"A staff member noticed and reported a suspicious looking substance," said Suzanne Turner, the district's Director of Strategic Communications. "Since we did not know what it was or whether it posed a health hazard, we contacted local authorities. They came and investigated, and ultimately found it to be harmless."
CHS Principal Dr. Lovie Lilly released the following statement shortly after 3 p.m.:
Columbia High School Community,
As you know, the safety of our students and staff is always our top priority.
Upon hearing of a possible hazardous substance at Columbia High School, we took the precaution of evacuating the building while our partners in the public safety community investigated. They have since confirmed that there was no hazardous substance present in the building. Students and staff returned inside at 2:30pm.
We are grateful to the Maplewood Fire Department, Maplewood Police Department, and Essex County Haz-Mat Unit for their quick response and assistance.
Lovie Lilly, Ed.D.