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NEW KNOXVILLE — Students at New Knoxville School were evacuated Tuesday afternoon and the building searched by an area bomb squad.
Auglaize County Sheriff Al Solomon told The Evening Leader a phone call at 1:54 p.m. by a school employee triggered an investigation that included the Lima Bomb Squad searching the school. Solomon said the students were evacuated a “safe distance away” from the school and parents were notified via the school district’s policy.
“The Lima Bomb Squad was called in to do a search of the building with personnel from the school,” Solomon said. “Class was in session when they evacuated the school. Parent pick-up was controlled from outside the building by law enforcement and school personnel.”
Solomon said members of the bomb squad did not find anything and cleared the scene at approximately 4 p.m.
Superintendent Kim Waterman said students told her and Principal Linda Tebbe about a threatening message they found on a top floor bathroom wall.
“Around 1:40 (p.m.), two students asked for Mrs. Tebbe and myself to check some writing on the wall,” Waterman told The Evening Leader. “We went to check the location on the wall and it was a threat. We proceeded to get everyone out of the building.”
Students confirmed that the message had been on the wall since Monday, she said, so school officials evacuated students as if it were a fire drill, and the Auglaize County Sheriff’s Office was notified immediately by a school custodian. Waterman noted for their safety, students were not allowed to go to their lockers or gather their belongings and were evacuated quickly.
“We got the students out right away,” she said.
Waterman issued a One Call Now announcement to notify parents of the situation at approximately 2:20 p.m.
“I placed a One Call Now to let the parents know that the students were being dismissed early,” she said, noting that buses came early to pick up the students and the walkers were released.
Waterman noted the sheriff’s office and the New Knoxville Fire Department responded quickly to the incident.
“The sheriff’s office was here really quick,” she said. “The fire department was already suited up and ready to go.”
School officials then waited for the arrival of the bomb squad and took it through the building, which was checked thoroughly.
“We waited for the bomb squad to arrive and took them through the building,” Waterman said. “It was checked thoroughly — the classrooms, the hallways, the lockers, anywhere that a child had access to was checked.”
After the search, the school was cleared of any threat. Waterman said the evacuation went smoothly, but there is always room to improve.
“You can always improve on what’s been done,” she said. “You rethink what’s been done and what could have been done better.”
She noted the staff helped keep the process organized.
“We’re blessed to have a fireman and a few military men on staff to help keep things organized,” Waterman said.
An investigation into the incident will follow, Waterman said.
“We’re blessed because of the renovation to have cameras in the hallways,” she said, noting that the video will be looked through. “It’s upsetting that this happened, so you want to catch the person that did this because school should be a safe place for students … You don’t want them to fear.”
The sheriff’s office responded to the school along with the New Knoxville Police, New Knoxville Fire, St. Marys Fire/EMS and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. The investigation into the incident continues.