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Bomb and shooter threats disrupt Wolf Creek Local and surrounding districts

Photo by Janelle Patterson Waterford High School Principal Suellen Coleman, right, confirms contact information for a suspect with Resource Officer Jason Hall from the Washington County Sheriff’s Office as she coordinates at the district’s elementary school Friday during a lockdown.

WATERFORD — A series of bomb and active shooter threats saw Wolf Creek Local Schools relying on past training and coordination with law enforcement for a second day this week.

“What we’ve all been through in the last 24 hours, Mrs. (Suellen) Coleman is right this is the dream team,” said Superintendent Doug Baldwin in debriefing first with Waterford Elementary staff and then repeated again with the high school staff. “I can’t commend law enforcement enough, our bus drivers … everyone, thank you for your part. Our number one job is to educate, our second is to keep them safe.”

Waterford Elementary and Waterford High schools experienced three lockdowns in less than 24 hours, with threats of a bomb multiple times in either structure and additional threats of an active shooter on the grounds.

“I thought you all did a fantastic job,” reiterated Washington County Sheriff’s Deputy Kelly McGilton. “When we came in, the hallways were clear, the doors were closed, windows were shut … We don’t want running … we want to try and keep (students) as calm as possible.”

Photo by Janelle Patterson A Waterford Elementary student stops in his tracks watching law enforcement guard doors during the second lockdown of Waterford Elementary School on Friday.

Baldwin noted to staff of both buildings that the Friday calls were not in relation to an elementary child who ran from the school Thursday requiring air support to locate, and he also cleared another name that had been rumored by students Friday.

The third name circulated appeared to be a separate adult connected to the school district but was not confirmed by detectives.

Washington County Sheriff Larry Mincks could not confirm the pursuit of any suspect by press time Friday.

Friday morning, the first call, according to Chief Deputy Mark Warden, came in around 8:10 a.m. via a voice over internet protocol number, alerting staff that a bomb was in one of the buildings.

Warden noted that buildings of the district were then evacuated with the district “maintaining accountability for students.”

Photo by Janelle Patterson Wolf Creek Local Schools District Superintendent Doug Baldwin coordinates bus pickup at Waterford Elementary School following multiple threats to the school system Friday.

Neighboring school districts at Fort Frye Local and Warren Local also marshaled soft lockdowns not allowing traffic in or out of buildings in nearby Beverly or Veto.

Bomb-sniffing dogs from Muskingum County and Ohio University joined Washington County Sheriff’s deputies in clearing the grounds of both Wolf Creek buildings in Waterford but had barely allowed high school staff to return to their building when a second call rang in at the elementary school.

“The same number that called us, they’ve called there and there’s an active shooter on the ground,” said staff over the emergency radio.

Then a third call, this time, for a gun in the building.

“Lock everything back down,” said Suellen Coleman, principal of the high school, said as she grabbed keys and headed out the door to assist at the elementary school.

She left, praising the coincidence of Friday serving as a community day for high schoolers.

“They knew there’d been a threat, but we’d already had buses lined up to take them to their service projects,” she explained, starting her truck with prom decorations in the trunk.

Loading up district treasurer Rachel Miller, the pair moved to the elementary building across Ohio 339, ready to coordinate in the office and lock the building back down.

Baldwin headed back from rounds speaking with elementary classrooms to remind them they’re safe.

“I was with (a) seventh-grade (class) when this started again,” he said, passing back into the office.

Then a fourth call, a fifth, a sixth.

Threats that a gun was in the building, a bomb about to go off.

Parents ringing in with questions, deputies roaming halls with weapons drawn.

Baldwin made the decision: keep students inside. The building was surrounded by law enforcement, now including Ohio State Highway Patrol and more sheriff’s deputies.

The buildings had already been cleared by the three bomb-sniffing dogs.

“We keep them inside, if there is an active shooter out there and we evacuate, what are we sending them into?” said Baldwin.

But with more security at every entrance, and the elementary cleared a second time, the next decisions included tracking down the phone number, believed to be from the same caller as Thursday’s bomb threat.

Meanwhile, administrators in the elementary office began determining which students’ parents/grandparents or guardians were already lining Beebe Hill, and readying the buses on standby.

By 11:30 a.m. Friday students were climbing into cars and up steps of buses.

One fourth-grade student described the uncertainty, stating that some of her friends were scared, others cried, others were stopped in their tracks watching law enforcement stand guard outside the doors.

“Are we going to be at school Monday?” many asked.

It was the same question teachers asked after students were headed home via car, truck or bus.

The answer: yes.

“I just appreciate the whole effort of everybody, you know, I can’t do it myself. Kylie (Kinkaid) can’t do herself — Mrs. Coleman we can’t do it ourselves. We have to have the Dream Team. That’s what you guys have been, thank you,” said Baldwin.

Prom, junior high track and other events planned for this weekend were deemed to continue.

And Monday, Baldwin noted, additional law enforcement is requested to maintain a presence in the community; with a crisis response team and behavioral health staff on standby for both staff and students.

Janelle Patterson may be reached at jpatterson@mariettatimes.com.

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