COVINGTON - A loud noise sent students scurrying for cover and law enforcement personnel converging on Alcovy High School early Tuesday morning, according to the Newton County Sheriff's Office.
NCSO spokesman Lt. Mark Mitchell described the source of the sound as "a water bottle with some sort of liquid in it" that apparently exploded in the commons area of the school while classes were changing around 8:30 a.m.
"It was isolated to one part of the commons area. You had to be in pretty close proximity to hear it," he said. "(School resource) Officers responded immediately to the loud noise to see exactly what it was. There were some students who ran from the area, but there wasn't complete chaos."
Tuesday afternoon Mitchell confirmed that investigators were questioning two students after reviewing school surveillance video and talking to witnesses. Criminal charges are pending.
Mitchell said investigators believe the bottle possibly contained some sort of cleaning solution that caused a chemical reaction to occur, creating the loud noise in the commons area.
He said that investigators know of no one who was injured in the incident that he said "caused a disruption to the school, but the school wasn't evacuated or locked down."
Sherri Viniard, director of public relations for the Newton County School System, said Superintendent Steven Whatley is "out this week," but she posted an alert on the NCSS Web site Tuesday morning because apparently a rumor had started that the school was on lockdown.
"The school has not been in lockdown at all today," she said in an e-mail late Tuesday morning. "Someone threw a bottle of liquid in the commons area, and the cap of the bottle blew off. No one was hurt, and the school is running on its normal daily schedule."
She also said the school was never evacuated.
"This happened right before first period. The bell alerting students to go to first period had already rung and the area was starting to clear," Viniard said. "Many of the students had already gone to class. There were some students still in the vicinity when the bottle was rolled into the commons area."
Mitchell said immediately following the incident investigators performed a "sweep" of the entire school to ascertain if any other devices were hidden there, but they found nothing.
"This has definitely been a disruption to the school. These days we take anything of this type very seriously with the things that go on with schools in our country," Mitchell said. "Pranks like this can get students in very serious criminal trouble. It is not something we take lightly this day and time."
Recently spectators at a Newton High School basketball game were momentarily panicked when a burst of several loud popping noises occurred during half-time.
NCSO deputies were on the scene and upon investigation discovered the noises came from discharged fireworks and were not gunshots as first feared by many in the gymnasium at the time of the incident, Mitchell said.
Deputies identified several high-school age males who are suspected of discharging the fireworks, but no arrests have been made.
"They are investigating to see exactly who released the fireworks into the crowd, causing a disruption. Obviously, there will be charges if we can determine who did this," Mitchell said at the time of the incident.
Staff reporter Michelle Floyd contributed to this story.
Barbara Knowles can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org