Education

San Gabriel Elementary School students will return to campus

San Gabriel Elementary school in Atascadero was closed Monday, Sept. 14, as investigators continue looking into threatening letters and a suspicious device left on campus Sept. 11.
San Gabriel Elementary school in Atascadero was closed Monday, Sept. 14, as investigators continue looking into threatening letters and a suspicious device left on campus Sept. 11. ldickinson@thetribunenews.com

San Gabriel Elementary School students will return to their campus Monday, two weeks after the discovery of threatening notes and a suspicious object led to the school’s closure.

Testing done throughout the school by a certified environmental-monitoring service did not detect any harmful chemicals, prompting Atascadero Unified School District officials on Friday to declare the campus safe and reopen it to students, teachers and staff.

But still unknown are the results of testing of a liquid found inside the suspicious object, which initially tested positive for a dangerous chemical substance. That substance is being tested by the FBI, but further details about the object — which was found zip-tied to a fence near the playground — and the substance itself have not been disclosed.

Atascadero police Chief Jerel Haley said Friday there was nothing new to report on the ongoing investigation.

“I know it’s frustrating, but we are still in a holding pattern,” he said.

No primary suspect has been identified, he said.

The letters and object were found before classes started Sept. 11, before most children and some teachers had arrived. The school was evacuated that day; parents were finally allowed back for two hours Thursday afternoon to gather up their children’s belongings.

Since Sept. 14, San Gabriel’s approximately 570 students have been studying at three other school sites in Atascadero and Santa Margarita.

All district transportation will resume normal routes on Monday, and school counselors will be available to meet with students, staff or parents.

Law enforcement and district staff will continue to provide a visible presence and monitor the campus. Atascadero Unified Superintendent Tom Butler said some district staff, primarily maintenance and custodial employees, will work throughout the night on various shifts to ensure around-the-clock monitoring of campus, he said.

“We will be there on Monday providing extra patrols,” Haley said. “We want everyone to feel safe.”

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