John F. Ross public high school on the east end was evacuated on Wednesday morning during exams due to a false alarm, Guelph Police said.

The service initially said that an “unknown alarm” caused the evacuation — and armed police were on-scene as an investigation of the incident took place, two witnesses said.

Students and staff were moved to the nearby Zehrs across Stevenson St. North around 9:30 a.m., officials and a teacher told The Post.

Police Const. Mike Gatto told media that it may have been triggered when a teacher tried to halt a false fire alarm.

The students returned to their classes soon after police declared the area safe and that there was no risk to public safety.

A teacher at John F. Ross told The Post that a fire alarm was triggered and the school was evacuated.

“Honestly, it was pretty intense,” John F. Ross student Callum MacLeod told The Post, adding that students were told it was an “emergency procedure” without giving any further details.

A John F. Ross teacher explained that there was some serious miscommunication causing a few rumours to spread through the campus.

“Seems to be a lot of miscommunication during [the incident] it would appear,” he told The Post. He said that there was an email sent out to staff saying that the source of the fire could not be found, so the evacuation was called.

“This procedure includes the police following a protocol that includes dealing with an armed intruder,” he added, after explaining that there was some confusion among teachers and students.

Unusual behaviour

Hannah Roth was just a minutes into her exam when the fire alarm went off and her class started evacuating. She told The Post that “most of us just thought somebody pulled it as a prank to get out of writing their exam.”

Once they were outside, Roth and her classmates were told to move to the football field. For the class it was a “first red flag” as that has not occurred during the other times the alarm has tripped up, the grade 10 student said.

Soon after the students were moved to Zehrs parking lot or to Holy Rosary. “Thats when people really started to get concerned, since they say that you never move into those secondary zones unless something is actually going on.”

After some time waiting outside while police investigated the high school, the vice principal, announced that students could return inside the school. Students were told to continue writing exams while everyone wondered what took place.

John F. Ross principal, Beth Burns, emphasized that there was no threat to the school. However, Roth explained that “there was a lot of speculation about how she delivered the news, and if there was perhaps more to it than she was letting on.”

Burns posted on Twitter that a fire alarm triggered an emergency response protocol, and police and fire services responded. “No fire or threat at any time was found,” she wrote.

The police have yet to give more confirmed details.