Parents dropping their children off at Griebling School in Howell on Wednesday morning reported hearing "popping sounds," in the area as they arrived at the school.
In an email to parents Principal Nancy Rupp said the sounds were later determined to be coming from hunters in the fields behind the elementary school. Rupp said the Howell Police Department was called and investigated the situation. During the investigation Rupp said students being dropped off by their parents or on busses were "held on the vehicles until we were cleared to have them depart and enter the school."
The principal said in the email that, "For the most part students were unaware except for the fact that they were asked to remain on their busses for a little longer than usual."
Rupp said that while the hunters were determined to legally be allowed to be in that area she, "requested that the police officers appeal to the hunters to please go else where."
Superintendent Enid Golden said she was aware of the situation and was looking at ways to avoid future occurrences. "I am requesting that we appeal to hunters and ask that they refrain from hunting near schools despite staying within legal limits," she said. "The fact that parents and staff heard the shots, during this very sensitive time, is very disconcerting."
According to information provided by the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife there is a "Safety Zone" for school buildings and playgrounds of 450 feet for firearms. The safety zone for bowhunters is 150 feet for buildings and 450 feet for playgrounds.
Within these safety zones hunters, "cannot carry a loaded firearm or nocked arrow unless you have written permission in hand."
Safety zones were established in 1946 "as an area to place some physical distance, a buffer, between hunters and homeowners," the division said.
State Sen. Robert Singer said Howell residents had reached out to his office following the incident and he directed them to contact the township's administration. "The reaction of the parents is perfectly understandable in light of what we've all been through," he said.
Singer said that while the state has its laws townships are allowed to pass their own ordinances based on their individual situations.
Mayor Robert Walsh said as a parent he would also be alarmed by the sounds of gunshots near his children's school especially after the shooting in Newton, CT. "What happened on Friday was a tragedy," he said. "The nation is also a little bit edgy about guns and gunshots."
The Mayor said he would support discussing adjusting the safety zone in Howell much like there is a drug free zone around the schools. "There may need to be a 2000 foot limit that guns are not allowed to be in anyone's hands near a school," he said. "I'm of the opinion that we need to do more. We need to do anything we possibly can to prevent some of these catastrophic events that people have done in the last 10 to 15 years in the United States of America."
This is a breaking news story. Stay with Howell Patch as more information becomes available.