The suspicious device found in a North High School bathroom, resulting in the evacuation of the campus Friday, turned out to be a harmless piece of plumbing equipment, officials said.
It was unclear who left the equipment in the bathroom and when, but there’s been construction work going on at the school. Still, officials evacuated the school, only allowing students and faculty to return to the campus at 1:30 p.m. after the Kern County sheriff’s bomb squad determined it was not explosive.
The sheriff’s department received a call at 12:03 p.m. from the school saying a possible explosive device was found by students in a North High bathroom, said sheriff’s spokesman Ray Pruitt. The item appeared to be similar in shape to a pipe bomb.
“It turned out to be harmless, fortunately,” Pruitt said.
A total of 1,827 students attend the school.
Students said there was some panicking after school officials gave the order to evacuate the building, first sending them to the quad and then the stadium. Overall, however, they said the process went smoothly.
Zackeree Webb, 17, said some students were screaming and saying there had been either a bomb or guns found on campus. Webb was in art class when he saw some students running to the quad area at 12:27 p.m., and he at first thought a fight was going on.
Once they were told to evacuate, Webb started running scenarios through his head as to what had happened. He texted his mother, who immediately drove to the school.
Webb was one of the first students released from the stadium after his mom signed in to pick him up. A long line of parents stretched from a gate to the stadium eastward down Universe Avenue, which is just north of the school.
“I think it probably is real,” Webb said of the device before officials had examined it. “It’s Oildale and things happen.”
His mom, Carol Webb, said she at first thought it was a joke when her son texted her about the evacuation. She wasn’t overly concerned until she arrived at the school and couldn’t immediately get to her son.
She commended school officials on their quick response and for having a sound emergency plan in place.
Ciara Cummings, 15, was eating a pizza Hot Pocket for lunch when she heard the announcement to evacuate. She left her lunch half eaten and made her way outside along with everyone else.
The students had taken part in a practice emergency drill earlier in the week, so everyone knew what to do and quickly got out of the buildings, Cummings said.
Crystal McDermott, Cummings’ mother, said she panicked at first and couldn’t find where to go to pick up her daughter. And when she did get there, she had to wait until her daughter was allowed to leave the stadium.
“It’s just scary knowing your kids are someplace you can’t get them,” she said.
As for the rest of the afternoon, McDermott said she was going to get her daughter something to eat.
Streets in the area were blocked off, including parts of McCray Street at China Grade Loop, and entrances to the school on the China Grade Loop side. The California Highway Patrol assisted.
Kern High School District Public Information Officer John Teves said school officials took the necessary precautions. He said North High has a veteran staff of administrators.
“They knew what they were doing and they did it the right way,” Teves said.