UPDATED: Columbia High School Briefly Evacuated Tuesday Afternoon

Students, staff evacuated from building as a precaution following a staff member's report of a possible hazardous substance.


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. 

Best regards,

Lovie Lilly, Ed.D.



Morrisa da Silva March 05, 2013 at 09:07 PM
So what did they think the mystery substance (hazard) was? And what was it actually?
municipalbonds101 March 06, 2013 at 03:07 PM
Perhaps the School Board should engage in mandatory continuing education with respect to the teachers regarding visual identification of hazardous substances. I would think that a small pile of Tide laundry detergent might look "suspicious" to the untrained eye.
CHS Mom March 07, 2013 at 02:57 AM
I really can not believe that you think that the staff should be able to discern a hazardous material from a nonhazarsous substance. That is why the have specially trained hazmat teams. If you want to take a chance with your child's life, that is your choice. But don't take a chance with my children and their safety! What a ridiculous suggestion!
Stephen Sekel March 09, 2013 at 02:34 AM
I fully agree with CHS Mom.
Meghan March 10, 2013 at 05:56 PM
Me too, let the experts handle these situations.


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something
See more »