PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Administrators let SAD 1 students out early Thursday morning after an apparent school shooting threat was sent to Presque Isle High School Principal Dave Bartlett.
Bartlett received the threatening email about 7 p.m. Wednesday, Presque Isle police said. The email threatened a school shooting at Presque Isle High School on Thursday if “certain criteria are not met.”
Police said that all students attending schools within SAD 1 were dismissed at approximately 9:30 a.m. Thursday.
SAD 1 Superintendent Ben Greenlaw said that Bartlett did not see the email until around 8 a.m. Thursday. He called police immediately after, and then informed the superintendent’s office. He said the district decided to dismiss students around 9 a.m, primarily because the threat had been so specific.
Presque Isle police said that they were contacted about the incident at 8:07 a.m. Thursday. They are continuing to investigate the matter. Greenlaw said that the Aroostook County Sheriff’s Office and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security were also involved in the investigation.
A litany of cars and school buses drove away from the school shortly after the evacuation order. Students appeared to be calm as they waited to be picked up.
Bartlett directed all questions about the incident to the superintendent’s office.
In a Facebook post, SAD 1 said that administrators had let students out early because the email had “threatened the safety of our students and staff.”
Information from SAD 1 and Presque Isle police appeared to conflict over the timing of the threat.
Presque Isle police said the threatening email was sent to Bartlett on Wednesday night, which was confirmed by Presque Isle police Chief Laurie Kelly who said she “knew” that was the time the email was sent. The Facebook post, published at 9:29 a.m. Thursday, said the threat was made “this morning.”
Greenlaw said that the post had listed the threat as occurring this morning because that was when Bartlett had first read the email.
Presque Isle High School senior Alexis Moro said that she and her fellow students had not heard anything about the threat until around 9:26 a.m., when the school’s secretary announced on the loudspeaker that all SAD 1 students would be dismissed at 9:30 a.m due to a safety issue.
Moro said she and other students were confused about the dismissal, as nothing seemed to be amiss outside, and there were no signs of severe weather.
“We were, like, terrified. We didn’t know what was happening,” Moro said. “They didn’t give us any information.”
Moro, who drove herself and two friends home after the early release, said she did not want to go back to school Friday if the source of the threat is not apprehended.
Mark Cyr, whose daughter attends prekindergarten at Presque Isle High School, said that his wife rushed to the school to pick up their daughter after the district notified her about the incident. She then picked up her son who was attending day care elsewhere in Presque Isle.
“My kids are home and safe, that’s all that matters,” Cyr said. “But they won’t be going back until we are reassured and more security is in place.”
Greenlaw said the school would be taking safety precautions to ensure students and staff are safe in school Friday.
In a Facebook post Thursday, Greenlaw said that in the “coming days” there will be an increased police presence at SAD 1 schools. In an effort to maintain security at Presque Isle High, students will not be allowed to leave the building at lunch.
Though the school would be enhancing security, he said all absences at SAD 1 schools on Friday would be excused.
“It’s the most important job that we have as a school district — to make sure students and staff feel safe,” Greenlaw said. “But, I understand if parents don’t feel safe sending their students to school.”
SAD 1 comprises the communities of Presque Isle, Mapleton, Chapman, Castle Hill and Westfield.