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Mater Dei High School closes campus after credible threat

Mater Dei High School closes campus after credible threat
Mater Dei High School closes campus after credible threat 02:53

Mater Dei has closed its campus and canceled all campus activities through June 3 after the high school received a credible threat.

"We acknowledge the alarming nature of this message," the school said in a statement. "However, we at Mater Dei take all threats made to the school seriously."    

Mater Dei High School said it will transition to an online education platform for the last week of school and for finals week. 

The school said it will contact parents and students by June 1 to inform them of the details for the last two weeks of school.

"We are committed to providing timely updates and appreciate the parents' and students' understanding as we work diligently to ensure the safety of our community at all times," said school officials.

Santa Ana police say that a former employee has been making threatening and disturbing comments about other workers on campus, which led to the Orange County archdiocese to shut down the campus for the rest of the week.

Mater Dei High School campus
Santa Ana, CA - December 02: An aerial view of Mater Dei High School campus and sports fields on Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021 in Santa Ana, CA. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images) Allen J. Schaben

"We wouldn't close the school for several days if this appeared to be a hoax," said Allison Bergeron, Mater Dei's director of communications. "We are doing this to make sure our kids are safe and law enforcement has enough time to conduct their investigation."  

Police say that the threat was not directed at the school nor at the students and they aren't investigating it as a criminal matter.

But on the heels of last week's school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, school officials took no chances by immediately notifying parents and students while shutting down the campus.

Mater Dei freshman Preston was at football practice when he found out.

"We got out there and then the coach said 'hey no practice, get off the field and everyone was going crazy," said Preston. "Then we got the message of the threat."

The alert came just as after school activities had started. Preston and his sister say that students on campus were then corralled into the school's gym until parents could pick them up.

"When the parents pulled up to the front of the [gymnasium], then they would say 'ok this person is heading out.' They just watched over us and protected us," said Preston's sister.

More than 2,000 students attend Mater Dei High School.  

"I called my daughter on FaceTime and she was in the gym, so that's where I was headed, straight to the gym," said Susan Degennaro, who's daughter attends Mater Dei.

Degennaro described how she felt when she learned about the threat.

"You don't even want to know [how I felt]. I had scenarios of like if some guy had a gun, what would I do with my car? That kind of thing," said Degennaro.

School officials, along with the Diocese of Orange — which oversees the school — decided to shut down the campus for the rest of the week.

"Today, we learned of a credible threat to the Mater Dei campus and contacted the Santa Ana Police Department," the school said in the statement. "Safety and sweep protocols were implemented."'

Students shared their appreciation for the swift action to immediately shut down the campus.

"They are taking good precautions," said Preston's sister. "Especially after what happened in Texas."

The shut down comes just a week until students are expected to take finals, wrapping up the school year.

"All is well. I've got [my daughter] in my car and we're going to go celebrate at Juice it Up," said Degennaro.

School officials say they will now turn to remote learning for the rest of the week even offering extra remote learning on Friday to students who may need it.

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