WINDHAM — Windham High School, Middle School and Primary School are all closed Friday following a bomb threat at the High School reported the previous day.
According to RSU 14 officials, the school was evacuated Thursday afternoon after the threat was reported to administrators. Maine State Police K-9 units were brought in to conduct a search and found nothing suspicious.
Officials said the school was reopened Thursday for evening activities, but Superintendent Sanford Prince said that the schools were closed Friday as a precaution because the threat was made for a specific time on Friday.
“The decision to close the Windham Campus today was made as a precaution for student and staff safety as the threat was specific to today, March 30,” said Prince in an email to the school community Friday morning.
“There was no threat yesterday at all,” Prince emphasized in a phone interview Friday. “The threat was for today.”
Prince further explained the situation, including why the building was re-opened Thursday evening and then classes were canceled Friday.
“Yesterday afternoon K9 units came from the Maine State Police and were able to clear the High School for Thursday night activities. A number of people worked into the night last night trying to determine the approximate time that the message was written and who possibly could have written it,” Prince continued. “It was our hope that we would have been able to determine who had written the message so school could have opened today. As of late last night, the origin of the message had not been determined.”
Prince, High School Principal Chris Howell and The Windham Police have all said that the bomb threat was found in a bathroom at the High School.
“Earlier today students at the Windham High School discovered and reported a bomb threat written on a bathroom wall. The threat was discovered immediately following the time that students were dismissed for the day,” said a statement from Windham Police Thursday night.
“The location in question is one of the busiest bathrooms in the building, with over a hundred students visiting this space daily,” Prince said. “The message was reported to building administrators after the buses had left.”
According to Prince, students may have seen the threat earlier in the day an not immediately reported it.
“Instead of bringing it to the attention of school staff, a photo of the message may have been posted to a Snap Chat account,” he said. “The investigation into the message written yesterday has been turned over to the Windham Police Department as a criminal matter.”
Windham Police said Thursday night that the investigation is ongoing and encouraged anyone with information to reach out to school resource officer Seth Fournier.
Prince similarly encouraged parents to reach out to administrators or school resource officers with any information on the incident and said all tips will be confidential.
“We will continue to work on this matter throughout the weekend with schools opening on Monday,” Prince added. “Windham Police will add additional patrols to the campus and additional police will be in the schools next week.
Prince acknowledged that some students “may feel anxious about returning to school on Monday” and said that counselors will be available.
“These are difficult situations for schools and districts,” Prince said. “At the conclusion, we will use this event as an opportunity to review our communication and safety plans.”
Prince said by phone that he made the decision Thursday night to close the schools on Friday and that parents received a voicemail notification early Friday morning generated through the school’s online Blackboard parent portal. When asked, Prince stated that a similar message should have been sent Thursday to update parents and that such a message could have alleviated some confusion about the situation.
Prince said the district also worked to share information about the incident through the high school list-serve and via Twitter.
Thursday’s threat is not the only incident of its kind recently reported in the area. Gray-New Gloucester Middle School in neighboring SAD 15 had two bomb threats in March. In both of those cases, the threats were discovered in a boys’ bathroom and no explosives were found.
Matt Junker can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @MattJunker.
Windham High School, Middle School and Primary School are all closed Friday following a bomb threat at the High School reported the previous day.