A hoax bomb threat phoned into Tahatai Coast School sparked the evacuation of 720 pupils and staff to nearby Grenada Reserve yesterday and caused terrified parents to rush to the school to pick up their children.
Principal Matt Skilton said the office receptionist took the phone call at 11.24am yesterday, which lasted for at least two minutes before a decision was made to hang up.
The pre-recorded distorted voice message, which was "quite sinister and a bit gross", stated a bomb had been planted at the school, he said.
Police were immediately notified, and the school's bomb threat evacuation plans swung into action, he said.
Once everyone was out of the school and to a place of safety, parents were texted or emailed and asked to come down to the park to collect their children.
"It is naturally a very emotional and scary time for parents, and I think the staff and parents did really well in keeping the children calm, he said
Mr Skilton said, as an added safeguard, only parents or caregivers could collect the children and take them home.
"Our school is well prepared for such an event and unfortunately Tahatai Coast was not the only school targeted yesterday," he said.
The incident was one of a string of threatening calls made to schools throughout the country yesterday, including one at Hamilton's Berkley Normal Middle School.
Tahatai Coast appeared to be the only Western Bay school targeted but police would not release a full list of the schools affected.
Mr Skilton said the decision was made to close the school for the rest of the day and by 2.30pm the last child had been collected.
Police staff checked the school buildings and were satisfied the threat was a hoax call.
It would be "business as usual" at school today, Mr Skilton said.
It was incredibly frustrating and disappointing that someone would target primary school children in this way, Mr Skilton said
His sentiments were echoed by a number of parents the Bay of Plenty Times spoke to yesterday.
Nyree George. who came to collect her daughter Chrystal, said she and her sister-in-law rushed to the school after receiving the text.
"It's quite scary especially when you don't know whether it's a hoax or not . . . I think it's pretty pathetic that someone threatens a school. I hope they catch the people who did this," she said.
Josh Martin said his wife received a text about 11.36am to collect their five-year-old daughter Ella.
"Obviously it's a scary thing and even if it's another hoax call you have to treat these threats seriously," he said.
It was "disgusting" that someone would make this sort of threat to a primary school, he said.
Jodi Wilson, who collected her son Dayton, said it was "absolutely scary" to have received this kind of text from the school.
"It's quite unfathomable why anyone would do this to primary school children. If it's meant to be joke, it's a pretty sick one," she said.
Melissa Riches, whose daughters Sienna, 5, and Isabelle, 7, attend the school, said it had been "quite scary" to learn the whole school was in lockdown.
"You don't know whether these threats are real or not, and as a parent your first thought is for your children and how they must be feeling," she said.
Isabelle said she had been doing some "paper decorating" when her and her classmates were told they had to get out and head to Grenada Reserve.
"I feel sad because I love school and I had to leave my paper decoration behind. A lot of people were worried about their IPads, and their bags which also had to be left behind."
Last night a police spokesperson said inquiries were ongoing and police had no further comment to make at this time.