Princeton Times

News

December 21, 2012

Schools, officials on high alert

PRINCETON — Newtown, Conn., is a long way from Mercer County, but it didn’t feel that way this week.

As Americans mourned the innocent lives and sweet spirits lost in the Sandy Hook School shooting that left 20 students, along with six teachers and administrators, dead last Friday, some local schools and classes found ways to honor the victims and comfort survivors.

Prayer was the most common form of solace offered, as sympathetic souls everywhere posted on Facebook and public forums.

Mercer School’s Parent-Teacher Organization hosted a moment of silence during their December meeting, and a white silhouette of a guardian angel watched over the program.

At Glenwood School, Ms. Shrewsbury’s fifth-grade class members signed a sympathy card for the survivors in Newtown.

“We didn’t really have a homeroom mom for the class, so I agreed to take on the Christmas party,” Carla Cary, whose son, Matthew, is in the class. “I took a card and told all the kids that they could write whatever they wanted to say to the people in Newtown.”

Their spelling and penmanship were not perfect, but the sentiments offered were.

“I am so very sorry for your loss,” Michael Vaughan wrote in thick blue marker.

“I’m praying for you,” Jaden Lewis offered.

“I hope an pray for whats has happened,” Ryan Kiser shared.

Matthew Cary added two smiley faces to his, “So sorry.”

The class also put a very special cup of Christmas candy canes front and center during the celebration. Inside that cup, the grown-ups hosting the party wrote the names of each of the children lost inside Sandy Hook and vowed to seek Santa’s help in getting them to Heaven.

•••

While Newtown began a procession of funeral services for the lives lost when Adam Lanza killed his mother and began a the second-deadliest school shooting spree in American history, tension and fear ran high everywhere. Locally, parents continued sending their children to school, but each day, they prayed the little ones would come home safely.

The week was not without its share of frights, beginning Monday morning, when someone phoned in bomb threats at Princeton Senior High School and the Mercer County Courthouse.

Both buildings were searched and found to be clear of any incendiary devices.

•••

Later in the week, more threats surfaced, as the Mercer County Sheriff’s Department received a report from the parent of a Montcalm High School student, in reference to a rumor of a mass killing planned for Thursday at Montcalm. According to a media release issued by the MCSD, the threat was reportedly planned to coincide with the Myan calendar’s end, which some believe to foretell the end of the world.

“The Mercer County Sheriff’s Department and officials with the Mercer County School system contacted several Montcalm High School students who had heard of the rumor but were unable to pinpoint its source,” Major D.B. Bailey reported in a media release.

Officers initiated a plan to have MCSD officers, along with West Virginia State Police troopers on hand at Montcalm High School Thursday. They used handheld metal detectors to scan all students entering the school and all vehicles coming onto the property were searched as precautionary measures.

No weapons or questionable devices were found.

Soon thereafter, however, the rumor spread to indicate that there could be threats to Princeton Middle and Senior High schools, along with the Mercer County Technical Education Center.

All three schools were searched and found to be safe. Students were back in class by 10 a.m., but the MCSD investigators vowed to continue the search.

Mary Wellman, of the Mercer County Schools Central Office, reported early in the day that the ordeal allegedly began with a Facebook threat posted at approximately 4 p.m. Wednesday involving a shooting incident planned for Thursday. Investigators did not confirm how the rumors of a threat started.

Princeton Middle School Principal Danny Buckner reported that the potential threat to Princeton Middle was discovered as students discussed rumors aboard their buses early in the day.

Buckner said the entire school had practiced lockdown procedures for the previous two days, so students were prepared when he issued the order Thursday to remain inside their classes until the school could be secured.

“We just can’t take anything too seriously; we have to run these things down,” Buckner said.

He said he called officers from the Princeton Police Department to the school to search the grounds, and the facility received an all-clear by 9:40 a.m.

The investigation soon spread to Stafford Drive, where guards from Wallace Security Agency, Princeton Police, Mercer Sheriff’s Department and State Police investigated.

PikeView Middle and High schools were not included in the threats, but WVSP Sgt. M.K. Summers advised parents he planned to spend the rest of the day at the schools to increase security there.

— Contact Tammie Toler at ttoler@ptonline.net.

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