Just a week after a pipe bomb was found at Centaurus High in Lafayette, a misplaced science project on a school bus caused a scare at Fairview High in Boulder on Monday as police corralled students into the gymnasium and shut down streets to investigate.
A school bus driver found an unattended bag containing the project on a bus Monday morning at Fairview, according to Boulder police spokeswoman Kim Kobel. The driver -- who officials say did not think the device was suspicious -- took the project into the school in an effort to return it to the student.
A staff member inside the school thought the device looked suspicious and took the bag into the parking lot and called police.
After about an hour, though, police determined the "device" was a science project left in a student's bag. The device was an electromagnetic project that included pipes, wires and a battery, Kobel said.
The father of the student heard about the incident from the school and suspected it might belong to his son, who had lost a science project on a bus over the weekend. A bomb robot was able to take video of the device, and the student identified it as his project.
Because the bag was left on the bus accidentally and no threats were made, Boulder police said the student will not face charges.
The student's father declined to comment about the incident when reached by phone Monday.
The incident occurred one week after an explosive device was discovered at Centaurus High School and detonated by a bomb squad after a teacher removed it from the school building. That device was described as similar to a pipe bomb and was attached to a 9-volt battery. Police arrested a juvenile student in that case.
Kobel said the response Monday was protocol for a suspicious package, but: "It's fair to say since the incident in Boston and at Centaurus we are always on high alert."
She said people should leave any suspicious device alone and call police.
"We would advise anyone who finds a device like this to get out of there and call 911," Kobel said. "Don't pick it up if you don't know what you're dealing with."
Fairview held its graduation Sunday, but freshmen, sophomores and juniors are still in school for finals week. School resumed Monday on schedule, though the first period will be rescheduled for later this week.
After acknowledging last week that "communications should have gone out sooner" following the Centaurus incident, the Boulder Valley School District sent out an email Monday shortly after the device was discovered at Fairview at about 8 a.m. Another was sent at 9:19 a.m. saying the students had been moved to the gym, and a third notification was sent at 9:25 a.m. indicating the device was a science project.
"I think this one went a lot faster," said Boulder Valley spokesman Briggs Gamblin. "It was a better job, and we had quick communication from the Boulder Police Department and they worked closely with our director of security, who was on site."
Gamblin said this time, the district sent out notifications as soon as it knew police had found a device.
"We learned a lesson from Centaurus," Gamblin said. "We can't wait to respond until we've answered every question because information is always changing. You start with one or two things you know. We knew there was a device and we knew the students had been moved."
Contact Camera Staff Writer Mitchell Byars at 303-473-1329 or firstname.lastname@example.org.