NF campus on lockdown after Loyola fire alarm

Incident occurred on anniversary of two school shootings



The ‘soft lockdown’ meant students had to remain inside buildings

On Feb. 14, New Trier’s Northfield campus went into a ‘soft lockdown’ due to an activated fire alarm and police activity at neighboring Loyola Academy.

That day marked the anniversary of a school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas in 2018. On this same date in 2008, there was a shooting at Northern Illinois University. Schools across the United States were on heightened security due to the events.

It was early in the day when Loyola’s fire alarm was triggered, which was concerning due to the fact that the shooting in Parkland began with the gunman pulling the fire alarm. Police soon arrived at the school and it was later discovered through a preliminary investigation that the alarm was activated due to faulty wiring, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Maeve McNulty, a sophomore at Loyola, didn’t realize the severity of the situation until after she returned to class.

“It wasn’t that scary until we learned that it was the anniversary of the Parkland shooting, and we were told that the school had received threats of a shooting,” said McNulty.

Once it was clear what had happened, McNulty struggled to remain focused.

“After that, it was really hard to go back to class, because I just kept worrying that something might happen,” explained McNulty.

Meanwhile, the Northfield campus was warned of the nearby police activity. Paul Waechtler, principal of the Northfield campus, was informed of the situation by the officer on staff.

“Our school resource officer told us there was police activity at Loyola. A few minutes later, he informed us that a fire alarm had gone off at Loyola,” said Waechtler.

Alongside his colleagues and the Wilmette Police Department, Waechtler decided to go into lockdown to practice the utmost caution.

The lockdown allowed the school to get a better grasp of the situation. “Our priority was on keeping kids safe. My energies and thoughts were about how to communicate to students and staff, what needed to go out to parents, and who else needed to know about the situation,” said Waechtler.

The campus was under this soft lockdown for about 30 minutes, until the police activity calmed down and the two schools had a full understanding of what had happened.

During this soft lockdown, the freshmen could continue on with their usual routines, but they were not allowed to leave the buildings.

“They [the students] are allowed to move within the buildings to access their classes, and classes are going on as normal,” stated a tweet from New Trier.

During this ordeal, New Trier released three total tweets to keep the community aware. The tweets walked through what was going on at the other campus, with the last tweet stating, “The Northfield Campus soft lockdown is over. Police have cleared the area of any active threat and assured the campus is safe and secure.”

NT Freshman Piper Dooley was in between classes during the soft lockdown: “I was going from second period, and there was no one outside. Then I heard everyone talking about a lockdown,” said Dooley.

Dooley, like many, was unsure of the true cause of the lockdown: “When I got home, my mom was like, ‘did you hear there was a lockdown’ and I said, ‘yeah because of the fire,’ but then she told me that it was the anniversary of that really big shooting.”

Due to the strong relationship between Loyola and New Trier, information was shared between the two easily, allowing for the situation to be handled in a timely manner.

“We have a good relationship with them and our assistant principal called their assistant principal on her cell phone,” said Waechtler.

“It was scary but it was even scarier because it was so confusing. I had no idea what was going on when the fire alarm went off,” said McNulty.