The Port Arthur News
PORT ARTHUR —
Students arriving for the start of a new school day at Tyrrell Elementary were diverted to a nearby middle school while officials waited for the air to clear Tuesday morning.
The temporary relocation of about 700 students was deemed a precautionary measure by Port Arthur ISD after learning that a SWAT team was forced to use a chemical agent to try and force a burglar out of a home near the school.
Port Arthur Police responded to a 911 call about 12:40 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 2 from a home in the 3100 block of North Park — across the street from Tyrrell Elementary School — reporting a burglary occurring at the residence. The resident was able to escape but the suspect remained inside, according to a press release from PAPD.
PAPD’s SWAT team was called to the scene when the suspect refused to leave the residence as ordered. Chemical agents were fired into the home but the suspect still refused to exit. SWAT officers entered the home about 6 a.m. and located and arrested the suspect, a 41-year-old Port Arthur man.
The entire incident occurred before the beginning of school classes but due to the proximity of the SWAT call to Tyrrell, it was decided by school personnel to move the students to the auditorium at Thomas Jefferson Middle School until all traces of the chemical agent which were sprayed at the home, had dissipated.
PAISD Deputy Superintendent Mark Porterie said the district was in contact with law enforcement throughout the incident.
“After discussion we decided we did not want the children to come into contact with that type of environment (chemical agent) that may make their eyes water and cause sore throat. We made the decision to go to Thomas Jefferson Middle School auditorium until the fire department disseminated the odor,” Porterie said.
Buses were diverted to TJMS and school staff were on scene to direct parents to a drop off location a the middle school.
The middle school opened its cafeteria for the 700 Tyrrell school students for breakfast and the kids played games and read books until the all clear was given. Students returned to their school at about 11 a.m., he said.
“The two principals, Dr. Barbara Polk at Thomas Jefferson Middle School and Mrs. Emily Moore at Tyrrell and the transportation department, worked wonderfully together,” he said.
Porterie also commended Constable Eddie Collins and PAPD Chief Mark Blanton and the police department for their work.
“Chief Blanton and the police department did an outstanding job ensuring the safety of all the staff members and students involved,” he said adding the district was in constant communication with the police department throughout the incident.
Neither students or staff were in any imminent danger but the scenario was a learning experience for the district in how to respond to unforeseen events, he added.