- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 23, 2014

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - A Lincoln elementary student who wandered off the school’s campus during morning recess was unwrapping Christmas gifts and decorating cookies in a nearby home while police looked for her, authorities said.

Officers, teachers and worried residents searched Friday for 7-year-old Gracie Shafer, who disappeared after she walked away from the Everett Elementary School playground, the Lincoln Journal Star (http://bit.ly/1GTcON4 ) reported.

School district officials say Gracie, who has autism, was standing near a school employee helping supervise the 90-some first-graders outside. Staff realized Gracie was unaccounted for after everyone came inside of the building, immediately alerting police and Gracie’s parents.

“They were in the process of getting lots of kids in the door,” said Jane Stavem, associate superintendent for instruction at the Lincoln Public Schools District. “That’s a normal, everyday kind of scene. This was just one of those situations that you never want to have happen, but it’s a reality that it can. We don’t want it to. But it did, and they handled it beautifully.”

Mikayla Ratliff, the owner of a home, tipped off police to how Gracie spent her day, after finding her door wide open and unwrapped Christmas presents inside. She’d left the door unlocked, and assuming she’d been burglarized, she called police. Officers found Gracie’s coat inside and searched the home to make sure there wasn’t any sign someone else had been there with her.

“They determined she came in on her own and was just having fun playing around,” Ratliff said.

Several items under Ratliff’s Christmas tree were missing, including a doll and a small basketball hoop, but she said wasn’t worried about the missing items. She said she was just glad Gracie was OK.

“In the end it was just really cute,” Ratliff said. “She was just having … herself a really good day.”

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Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, http://www.journalstar.com

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