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Wheelersburg Schools evacuated students Wednesday afternoon after the Scioto County Sheriff’s Office received a telephoned bomb threat targeted at the school.
The call to the Sheriff’s Office came at approximately 10:50 a.m. Wednesday and authorities worked with the Wheelersburg School District to efficiently react to the threat, according to Wheelersburg Superintendent Mark Knapp.
"The school district received a phone call from the Sheriff’s Office this morning, they received the bomb threat, the school district did not," Knapp said. "They notified us of the situation so we implemented our emergency procedures and we evacuated all students to their evacuation sites. Since then we have been in communication with law enforcement."
Knapp said parents of students received updates through the school’s messenger service.
"Obviously the most difficult situation is parents want to come to the site, so the volume of traffic makes it difficult. We are trying to take care of each one of those as they come to the building," Knapp said.
Capt. Robert Woodford of the Scioto County Sheriff’s Office said the call was received by the Sheriff’s Office and authorities immediately began working with district officials.
"We all responded and gathered together with the schools and law enforcement and a decision was made to evacuate the school and Highway Patrol has assisted with that and offered their resources to get the children over there safely," Woodford said.
Minford High School was also in a state of lockdown during the same time period Wednesday due to a robbery at the nearby U.S. Bank location in Minford. Woodford said that any reports of the bank robbery and the bomb threat being connected were only speculation as of 2:15 p.m. Wednesday.
"It is not confirmed. It is only a possibility because of the coincidence of the time lapse. No more than that," Woodford said.
Porter Township workers and the Ohio State Highway Patrol blocked portions of Pirate Drive in Wheelersburg while students were evacuated to scripted locations and then loaded onto buses to be taken home early.
"We had practiced this before so it went pretty smoothly and we appreciate the cooperation of all those involved," Knapp said. "The kids did a wonderful job and the staff as well evacuating. We notified our bus drivers who were pulled in right in the middle of the day. It all went smoothly."
Many evening school activities were canceled due to the search including a high school basketball game.
A canine detection unit from the Columbus Division of Fire arrived in the afternoon and as of 5:15 p.m., the bomb search had concluded and the school was reopened to parents and students looking to pick up belongings left behind during the evacuation.
"The school is all clear," Capt. David Hall of the Scioto County Sheriff’s Office said.
According to Woodford, finding a threat is extremely rare.
"That is the norm, but we are in a different time now with what our country has gone through lately, you can’t take things lightly," he said.
Woodford said the entire episode displayed the resiliency and resolve of those involved.
"From what I have seen the parents have been very cooperative and patient. I think this, as an exercise it is good that we have done all this and put it in place so that the schools and law enforcement is working together," Woodford said. "I applaud that, not the fact that it happened."
Knapp said the emphasis, as always, is the safety of the children and staff.
"You can never take them (threats) lightly. You always have to keep staff and students safety in mind, first and foremost," he said.
Bob Strickley can be reached at 353-3101, ext. 296, or firstname.lastname@example.org.