Education

Families keep children home after threat reported at Chapel Hill High School

Half of Chapel Hill High School families kept their kids home Tuesday, a day after a man reportedly threatened to "shoot up" the school.

Average attendance for the high school and two nearby schools hovers in the mid-90s, but on Tuesday, only 50.7 percent of Chapel Hill High students came to school, down from a 94.7 percent average.

At Smith Middle School, attendance fell to 72.5 percent, down from its 96.7 percent average.

At Seawell Elementary School, attendance fell to 62.3 percent, down from its 96.4 percent average.

Tori Ekstrand, a Chapel Hill High parent who has criticized how the school district told parents about the threat, said her ninth-grade daughter reported sparse attendance Tuesday.

Ekstrand allowed her daughter to attend school after talking with teachers who said they planned to be at work.

"If I had not talked to some of my daughter's teachers, I probably would not have allowed her to attend school on Tuesday," Ekstrand said.

Ekstrand said a voicemail from Principal Sulura Jackson lacked "importance and urgency" and left her unclear about whether she should send her child to school

School board Chairwoman Ran Dasi, who has two children at Chapel Hill High, said Jackson was trying not "alarm parents" because the threat had not been verified.

Police will continue to "stay close" to Chapel Hill High, Seawell and Smith for the remainder of the week and to monitor the schools until its deemed no longer necessary, a police spokesman said.

There was a heavy police presence at the schools Tuesday and Wednesday after a small group of girls, all under the age of 10, reported that a man threatened to "shoot up" the high school.

School system officials said the girls reported being approached by a man Monday while on a walking trail behind the three schools. The girls said the man, wearing a camouflage backpack, said he was going to do harm at Chapel Hill High on Tuesday, according to the school district.

All three schools are next to one another off Seawell School Road.

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