Relief as school set to re-open on Monday after threat

Elmgrove Primary School, Beersbridge Road, Belfast
Elmgrove Primary School, Beersbridge Road, Belfast

There was a mood of relief among parents on Friday after a school which shut due to a mystery threat looked set to re-open on Monday.

It emerged on Thursday that Elmgrove primary school in east Belfast had been the subject of some kind of threatening message, and it remained shut yesterday.

A man, aged 33, was arrested in relation to “malicious telecommunications” on Thursday night.

The precise nature of the threat remained unclear on Friday, but Belfast Education and Library Board said it was understood to involve two separate e-mails sent on Wednesday and Thursday, and that neither of them had gone directly to the school.

It added that the first the school had known about the matter was on Thursday, and its principal Jayne Jeffers said “it is our intention to open the school as usual on Monday January 26, 2015.

“This will be confirmed to parents via the school text messaging service and on the school website on Sunday afternoon.”

Karen Purdy, centre co-ordinator at Bloomfield Community Association, which hosts after-school gatherings and playgroups for some of the 570 Elmgrove pupils, described the moment the news began to ripple out.

Text messages about school being cancelled due to “unforseen circumstances” were sent out to parents, and many thought that this could simply be due to burst pipes.

“As evening progressed we were at a community event, and people were starting to go on Facebook and were starting to flag up that the police were there, and there’s some kind of danger,” she said.

However, she added that throughout yesterday the pupils themselves seemed largely unaffected by the problems.

Asked what the feeling is now that the school is set to reopen, 48-year-old Mrs Purdy said: “I think it’s relief.”

It is understood that a school fun day had been set to be held yesterday, with cash raised being donated to combat autism.

The education minister John O’Dowd said yesterday: “To attempt to intimidate any community is unacceptable, but to direct a threat against a school is particularly unfathomable...

“It is, however, regrettable that the children’s routine and learning has been disrupted as a result of criminal activity and I hope that the matter can be resolved as swiftly as possible.”

At around 11.30pm on Friday, a 33-year-old man was charged with threats to kill, misuse of electronic communications, criminal damage, and possession of class B drugs.

He is due to appear in Belfast magistrates’ court on Saturday.