Police have confirmed at least one shot was fired, forcing two schools and their distressed students into emergency lockdowns this morning.
Staff and students at primary school Bellevue School, Otumoetai College and a nearby childcare centre were put into a "lockdown" after reports of a firearms incident at 8.45am in Tauranga.
A parent told the Bay of Plenty Times his daughter had texted him at 9.27am from Otumoetai College and said "Dad we are in lockdown and have been for a while. There is a school shooting.
"A Year 10 student had spread rumours that she is going to start a shooting."
Police say they are speaking to one person following a report of a firearm being discharged in the Bellevue area.
"Bellevue Primary went into voluntary lockdown but that has since been lifted. Police are not looking for anyone else."
Parent's horror: 'I heard a gunshot go off'
Jason Harnett, whose children attend Bellevue School and live near its entrance, said he heard a gunshot.
He thought it was a car hitting another car but when he heard pellets hitting the top of his roof he realised what was happening.
Gabrielle Sharland was walking up the hill to Bellevue School when she heard what she said sounded like a gun.
"I heard a gunshot go off," she said.
Sharland said she had dropped her seven-year-old daughter to Bellevue School when she heard the principal over a loud speaker warning parents to go into the classrooms.
"We were locked in the classrooms trying to keep the kids safe, reading them books,"she said.
She admitted she was worried about her children after the lockdown.
However she said the teachers handled the situation well.
"The teachers had them well secured, it was really good."
Bellevue School principal Dave Bell said the school had been alerted to an incident that happened outside the school grounds but on its boundary.
A lockdown for staff and students was ordered, with everyone told to go inside immediately.
"It was before school, before the bell rang and we followed all procedures," Bell said.
"Our procedures are that it is indicated we are going into lockdown, all staff and students go inside and lock the doors.
"They are to remain out of sight until we got the call it was all clear."
The Ministry of Education would provide a help line and counselling to anyone who needed it, Bell said.
Otumoetai College principal Russell Gordon said Bell had alerted him to a firearms incident at the primary school.
Because the college was about 400-500m from the primary school they also went into lockdown.
"We had no choice but to go into lockdown ourselves."
Gordon said he and another member of the school's management team visited every classroom and alerted the students and teachers that Bellevue School was in lockdown.
"Every child was sitting in darkness under window height," he said.
"The way the students reacted, they coped admirably."
Gordon confirmed the school was dealing with police following a separate incident last week after an "implied threat" from one of their students.
"That is a totally separate incident."
He said social media and rumours can escalate and that "everything is under control."
A student at Otumoetai College said there was a mixed feeling among students and "there are people here really scared and stressed out" during the lockdown.
"We're just trying to stay calm."
The student said no one really knew what was going on.
"[Teachers] have just said 'this is not a drill'. That's all we've been told so far."
Montessori Otumoetai also went into lockdown, but centre manager Shamima Khanikar said it had all been lifted now.
"We have kept all the children in so far, but I just heard that it's all lifted and all the sirens that we were hearing have stopped as well. But we are still inside."
She said staff took all the children inside and contacted the parents. Some parents chose to take their children home.
"It was a little bit scary for us but I think everybody stood up – all the teachers, and we gave clear instruction to all the children about what we're going to do, we didn't say what's happening but we just let them know that if a teacher shouts it's an emergency, this the place we're all going to go."
Khanikar said they came to know about the incident from parents, who also had children at the nearby schools and college.
Reports on social media suggest there have been gunshots heard. The student said that's what other students at the school were also saying.
The incident comes just days after an email was sent to parents of Otumoetai College students about a Year 10 student who allegedly made threats to the school.
The email read: "The school takes any threat seriously and management contacted the police as soon as they became of the issue. The police have since visited this family, spoken with the student concerned and the required help has been arranged."
Parents were also told no further action was required.
The incident has sparked anger and upset among a Year 13 student who said: Many of us are furious at this because of events in the past days".
The student said the Year 10 student "planned to shoot up her form time assembly and brought knives and guns".
"She had a 'hit list' of students and teachers and planned to shoot herself once her 'mission' was complete.
"As students we were obviously on edge for the following couple of days."
"Yesterday, each year group attended separate assemblies where the school attempted to 'settle the rumours' ... They told us that 'no one's lives were in danger at any point' and that 'no further actions are being taken'.
"We are angered ... This incident may not be related to this year 10 girl but even so, it is too close for comfort especially when the school tried to calm us down by assuring us we are in a safe place."
A police media spokeswoman said the armed offenders squad had been alerted to the incident and police were responding.
"It looks like the school is in lockdown and we are responding to a firearms incident in the area," she said.
A group of about 15 parents gathered outside the school gates, waiting for news from inside the school. A reporter overheard a parent saying the children are fine but were still in lockdown.
Matthew King, chairman of the Bellevue School board of trustees, said he had no comment to make when contacted by the Bay of Plenty Times this morning.
No one at the schools' office lines could be reached this morning.