The Washington High School/Middle School campus was on lockdown Thursday after two anonymous bomb threat calls were made in the morning threatening to “blow up” the high school.
The Washington C.H. Police Department, with assistance from the Washington Fire Department and Fayette County Sheriff’s Office, conducted a perimeter and interior search of the buildings and nothing suspicious was found, according to authorities. After the search was completed and the campus was secured, Robert Hamm, interim superintendent at Washington City Schools, made the decision to continue with classes throughout the day.
The first threat came in at around 6:30 a.m. Thursday and was left as a voice mail. “It sounded like it possibly came up from a cell phone app, possibly pre-recorded and it was broken up a bit,” said Hamm. “It basically stated that there are bombs around the perimeter of the building and that there was a package coming that would blow up the school.”
The second call was made to the Washington Police Department at 7:06 a.m., according to WPD Lt. Rusty Lowe. This call claimed that several pipe bombs had been planted throughout the school grounds and that they would detonate on the command of a cell phone.
At the same time the search was being conducted shortly after 7 a.m., students were arriving at the buildings. Students were kept inside the gymnasium with faculty members trying to keep them calm as the search was ongoing. Parents were given the option to keep their children out of school for the day.
“Law enforcement was already on-site when I arrived at the campus,” said Hamm. “So law enforcement, myself and our maintenance employee went around the whole campus. Police found nothing and we found nothing. We decided to go to a modified lockdown of the facility. Obviously, a lot of moms and dads were concerned and understandably, many took their children home. Certainly the absences were excused.”
The search was completed at around 8 a.m.
The parents of students at Belle Aire Intermediate and Cherry Hill Primary schools were also contacted about the threats as a precautionary measure. “We’ll also be keeping the kids inside those schools today as a precaution,” Hamm said Thursday. “We also won’t be taking any deliveries at any of the buildings.”
The calls made Thursday morning were strikingly similar to two pipe bomb threats made to the Washington Police Department Jan. 13 that warned that the schools were going to “blow up.” Classes were closed at both Washington C.H. City Schools and Miami Trace Local Schools on that day. No suspects were identified during the investigation into the Jan. 13 threats.
“It seems it was the same type of call and came through the same internet calling system,” said Lowe. “We contacted AT&T and they could only say that it came through the internet. There was no specific information about where the calls came from.”
Police monitored the high school/middle school campus throughout Thursday. No additional incidents were reported.
Hamm said that although it made for a stressful morning, he was satisfied with how the situation was handled by administrators, faculty and law enforcement.
“The good news is the buildings are safe and secured,” he said. “During a pretty stressful situation and a problematic time constraint, I thought everyone handled themselves extremely well in managing the situation and resolving the issue. I want to commend the police and other responders. They were extremely helpful.”
The investigation is ongoing, police said.
Reach Ryan Carter at 740-313-0352 or on Twitter @rywica