For the first time in 10 years, the Greater Egg Harbor Regional School District conducted a “proactive search for controlled dangerous substances” at one of its high schools Thursday morning, April 12, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Steven Ciccariello said Thursday afternoon.
The high school in question was Absegami and Ciccariello expects the results Friday morning.
According to Ciccariello, officials using specially trained K-9 dogs searched the school beginning at 8:10 a.m. and lasting into second period classes. Students at the school remained in their classrooms during the search, and Ciccariello emphasized that no dogs came into contact with any students.
“They walked by the lockers and if they tapped on the locker, that was the signal to open it,” Ciccariello said. “The dogs walked through the building, through the gym and through the locker rooms.”
He also said the district has been discussing this measure for several months, and it is not a reactive measure to anything that’s happened in the district.
“It was a proactive measure to maintain the safety of the building, students and staff,” Ciccariello said. “We have no tolerance for controlled dangerous substances being on the property.”
The search was not announced ahead of time, but the Hamilton Township Police Department was aware it was going to take place.
“They knew it was coming, but we didn’t tell them exactly when it would be,” Ciccariello said. “We set it up so that they were informed the day it happened.
“As soon as it was over, (Absegami Principal) Dr. (Jeri-Lynn) Gatto made an announcement, and parents were notified.”
Searches have not yet taken place at Oakcrest or Cedar Creek, which are both also in the Greater Egg Harbor Regional School District. Ciccariello said that no search dates would be announced in advance.
The K-9 dogs weren’t associated with Hamilton Township Police Department, Ciccariello said. Instead, they used a contracted company referred to them by the police department. The company the district used 10 years ago is no longer in business, but he said the price was the same as it was with the previous company.
“We paid in the $5,000 price range for all three schools, which is the same as what we paid 10 years ago when we only had two schools,” Ciccariello said. “I think it’s money well spent.”
Ciccariello said he’s going to look at the data that was obtained through the search to see if any trends develop based on that. He said that a decision would be made about a possible search next year based on the data obtained on Thursday.
He added that he plans to present the findings in written form to the Board of Education at its meeting Monday night, April 16. That meeting takes place at Cedar Creek, and begins at 7 p.m.