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Students wait inside the football stadium at Watauga High School as officials search the school
building following a bomb threat Tuesday. Anna Oakes | Watauga Democrat

Originally published: 2013-08-27 08:50:30
Last modified: 2013-08-27 16:51:51

UPDATE: Police seeking bomb threat culprit

UPDATE 4:45 p.m.:

Police are still seeking Tuesday afternoon the culprit behind a bomb threat that caused evacuations at all Watauga County schools this morning.

Investigators have used a "lot of items at our disposal" to continue seeking the caller throughout the day Tuesday, Robbins said.

"We're following up on some things right now," he said at 4:15 p.m. Thursday. "We don't have anyone charged at this point, but we're still following up, actively investigating it."

Schools spokesman Marshall Ashcraft said the school system finished the day without any serious disruptions and that administrators were talking together about ways to improve their emergency responses in future incidents.

"Obviously, it's not an exercise anyone wants to do, but everyone seems to be pretty pleased with how it went," he said.


UPDATE 10:25 a.m.: All Watauga County Schools buildings have been inspected and all classes have resumed as of approximately 10:20 a.m. following a bomb threat, according to the WCS website.

The school system said all students and school personnel are safe.

"The school system will cooperate fully with law enforcement investigation into the source of this threat," the statement read.

Meanwhile, school systems in neighboring counties are on guard for similar incidents.

Ashe County Schools Superintendent Todd Holden said he was aware of Watauga's evacuation, and said Ashe County schools have received no threats.

"I'm worried about a copycat situation," Holden said Tuesday morning. "I sent out an email to all principals to have them go over their evacuation procedures and make sure that has been done."

Holden said a review of evacuation procedures usually occurs within the first two weeks of each school year but said it has not taken place yet.

"We've got a new set of procedures with assigned duties, for faculty and staff, and we've created a checklist," Holden said. "So we're figuring things out a little bit, but I'm headed over to the high school right now to make sure they go over those procedures, and then I'm headed to the (Ashe) Early Learning Center."

Avery County Schools Superintendent David Burleson said in a statement Tuesday morning that ACS also has a process in place for bomb threats or other types of emergencies.

"Our first concern and obligation is to keep our students and staff safe," he said. "We work very closely with the Avery County Sheriff's department and N.C. Highway patrol to carry out our school safety plan and procedures.

"A bomb threat on our schools or any public building is a very serious offense with stiff penalties. We do not want to tolerate a threat of any kind, including a copy-cat situation. We encourage everyone to be work together and contact officials if they have any knowledge of a harmful threat or situation to our schools or communities."

UPDATE: Watauga High School and Parkway School have reopened to students and school personnel and will resume classes at approximately 9:30 a.m., according to the Watauga County Schools website.

The inspection of Cove Creek School also has been completed, and classes will resume there shortly after 9:30 a.m.

Hardin Park and Mabel searches have been completed, and classes will resume there at approximately 10 a.m., the school system posted on its website.

Sheriff Len Hagaman said at 9:48 a.m. that Valle Crucis also had reopened, and at 10 a.m. that Bethel also had reopened.

Inspections were ongoing at Blowing Rock School and Green Valley School as of 10 a.m.

Mountain Pathways Montessori School also has been checked, and students returned to the building around 9:10 a.m., according to school staff. Two Rivers Community School also returned to its buildings shortly after 9 a.m., administrative assistant Beth Vossen said.

Watauga County school buildings have been evacuated in response to a bomb threat received Tuesday morning, according to police and the school system.

Sgt. Shane Robbins said the anonymous call was received by the Boone Police Department around 7:30 a.m. It was a "non-specific" threat, and the caller didn't specify whether it was against one school or all nine.

ASU police, Blowing Rock police and the Watauga County Sheriff's Office have joined Boone Police Department in investigating the claim. Sheriff Len Hagaman said at 8:55 a.m. officers had not yet determined whether any explosive devices had been found.

"We don't know," Hagaman said. "They're still sweeping the schools."

All students and school personnel have safely evacuated outside the school buildings, WCS spokesman Marshall Ashcraft said. He said most are remaining on the school grounds, although Hardin Park students and personnel have moved to the Boone United Methodist Church nearby.

"We anticipate that the buildings will be pronounced safe in time for students and school personnel to return to the buildings to complete the rest of the school day, and parents do not need to pick up their children early," the school system posted on its website. "We will announce any additional information as soon as it becomes available. Thank you for your patience and support."

Posts on social media sites indicate some parents are choosing to pick up their children.

Ashcraft said decisions about whether to count students absent who have left will be made at the school level.

"If parents show up and want to pick up their children, they'll be allowed to do that, but we're hoping to be able to complete as much of a school day as we can," he said.

In addition, Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute's Watauga campus was evacuated as a precautionary measure. The school posted on its Facebook page that the campus reopened at 9 a.m. and that classes will resume at 10:30 a.m. A text message and email alert indicated classes would resume at 10:45 a.m.

Appalachian State University has remained on a regular schedule and has not evacuated any buildings, spokeswoman Jane Nicholson confirmed.

"According to our chief, there is no known threat to ASU," Nicholson wrote in an email.