Threat, not directed at the school, leads to evacuation of St. Malachy in Geneseo
GENESEO — Students at St. Malachy School were evacuated to nearby Geneseo Middle School on Sept. 23, when a man threatened area businesses by saying he had a bomb in his car.
Geneseo police stopped Michael L. Allan of Moline at the intersection of Ogden Avenue and Chicago Street, which was close enough to St. Malachy to make a soft lockdown and eventual evacuation necessary. Father Michael Pakula, pastor, and the parish staff were also sent to Geneseo Middle School for their safety.
The threat was not directed at St. Malachy, according to Heather Francque, principal.
After Allan was taken into custody and it was determined there were no explosives in his car, students and the school and parish staffs were allowed to return about midday.
The Office of Catholic Schools for the Diocese of Peoria has been working with its 42 elementary schools, academies and high schools to prepare for events like the one in Geneseo. The Catholic Post will present a more detailed report on that in the Oct. 13 issue.
The incident happened after students came in from morning recess and announcements at 8:15 a.m. Francque and three teachers were at a math professional development day at Seton Catholic School in Moline, so former principal Jack Schlindwein was substituting for Francque.
When law enforcement informed him of the potentially dangerous situation, Schlindwein went to all the classrooms to inform them that the school was on a soft lockdown, according to teacher Kristin Wilson. That means all doors were closed and locked and no one was allowed to be in the hallways or leave the building.
Wilson, who teaches Spanish and computers, said that when the police called for an evacuation “that happened immediately and in a wonderfully orderly fashion. Our staff and faculty were calm and our students responded with immediate obedience.”
St. Malachy enrolls students in kindergarten through sixth grade.
“You can’t imagine a situation like this, but I can’t imagine that evacuation piece to go any more smoothly than it did,” Wilson said.
Francque and the teachers returned from Moline as soon as they heard about the evacuation.
Both women praised Geneseo Middle School for opening their doors, helping the St. Malachy students settle in, providing the services of a school nurse if necessary, and giving them lunch before they returned to their own school.
Francque and Wilson were also proud of their fifth- and sixth-graders, who entertained the younger students with speeches they had prepared for an upcoming speech tournament. In addition, they led their classmates in song.
Parents were informed by email throughout the morning and a post on Facebook when the situation was resolved.