CORINTH, Maine — Another bomb threat shut down Central High School on Monday morning, forcing students and staff to evacuate the building and further frustrating students and parents upset with the frequent disruptions.
“This is their fourth one this year,” parent Jennifer Lodge of Corinth said while law enforcement investigators searched the school. “They had eight last year. This is a problem.”
Superintendent Dan Higgins said Monday evening that the evacuation was only the second one so far this year and that he believed there were only five last year.
School officials have made efforts to prevent the false reports, but precautions must be taken to ensure student safety, Higgins said earlier in the day while standing in the school parking lot.
Monday’s threat was “specific enough to activate our emergency response plan,” he said. “We evacuated our students to an alternate location, accounted for all of them and secured the facility.”
The approximately 375 students were evacuated at around 11:20 a.m., said Higgins, who declined to identify how the most recent threat was made.
“Law enforcement is on-site now conducting the investigation,” he said at around 1 p.m.
Penobscot County Sheriff’s Department deputies and Maine State Police troopers went to the school and searched the building with bomb-sniffing dogs. No explosive device was found, and the last deputy left the school at 3:45 p.m.
Jennifer Lodge knew something was wrong when she attempted to call the school that morning to let office staff know that she would be picking up her daughter Alexis Lodge, 16, and no one answered the phone.
“I started calling her friends because I didn’t know what was going on,” she said. “I said, ‘I bet there’s another bomb threat.’”
Parents are not immediately called when there is a bomb threat, she said. Students are sent home with a notice that the event occurred.
Some larger school systems, including those in Bangor and Brewer, have implemented an emergency notification system to keep parents informed of emergency events.
Brewer School Committee members approved implementing the Immediate Response Information System, dubbed the IRIS, in March, and Bangor school officials approved piloting the IRIS program that same month with administrators at Vine Street School.
IRIS simultaneously calls or sends a text message to parents and staff to inform them of events. Higgins said implementing a similar system is something school leaders plan to discuss. SAD 64 is composed of Bradford, Corinth, Hudson, Kenduskeag and Stetson.
Alexis Lodge said she and her fellow students are aggravated with the continued disruptions.
“I think it sucks,” she said.
In addition to backpack checks, the school has implemented a system where areas of the building, including the restrooms, are restricted.
“Only one person can go at a time,” the teenager said. “We have to sign in and back out. It takes us like 15 minutes.”
She said most of the threats have been written on the girls restroom walls, a statement that Higgins declined to verify.
Higgins said the Lodges are not alone in their aggravation.
“The overwhelming number of students feel the same way,” he said. “It’s very frustrating because of the nature of the disruption. It disrupts the whole school day.”
The recent incident at Stockton Springs school, where an armed man held a group of fifth-graders hostage on Friday and later released them unharmed, has put school systems on alert and added to the alarm, Higgins said.
Central High School students did not return to the school Monday.
“We’ll be back in school tomorrow with additional security measures in place,” Higgins said without divulging what they might be. “The investigation is ongoing.”
If investigators find a suspect, they will be prosecuted, he said.
“It’s a criminal incident and will be treated as such,” Higgins said. “In today’s environment and today’s culture, you don’t have any choice but to do that.”