October 1, 2014

Police investigate bomb threat at WCS

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Williston Police Officer Travis Trybulski stands at the entrance of Williston Central School on Monday morning while authorities search the school and grounds after a bomb threat. Nothing suspicious was found, and students returned to school around 11 a.m. (Observer photo by Stephanie Choate)

Williston Police Officer Travis Trybulski stands at the entrance of Williston Central School on Monday morning while authorities search the school and grounds after a bomb threat. Nothing suspicious was found, and students returned to school around 11 a.m. (Observer photo by Stephanie Choate)

By Stephanie Choate

Observer staff

Police are investigating a bomb threat at Williston Central School that prompted authorities to evacuate students for approximately two hours Monday morning, the first day back from February vacation.

An early morning search of the school and grounds by a total of 21 officers and explosive-sniffing canines turned up nothing, and school resumed later that morning.

Williston School District Principal Walter Nardelli said the evacuation went smoothly.

“There is no question that the students were safe at all times,” he said. “It was very orderly and well executed.”

School officials called the Williston Police Department at 7:45 a.m. on Monday, after staff discovered a bomb threat left on the school’s voicemail system at approximately 4:30 a.m. Monday morning.

The voicemail mentioned “three devices,” Williston Police Chief Todd Shepard said. Nardelli said the message was muffled, and could have been an older child or an adult.

Students were led to three evacuation points in town at approximately 8:30 a.m., as outlined in the school’s Emergency Operations Plan. School and police officials meet bimonthly to plan for security risks, Shepard said.

A message was sent out to parents between 8:30 and 9 a.m., Nardelli said, via the school’s automated messaging system, a process that can take 15 minutes to complete.

Units from the Williston Police and Fire departments, Vermont State Police, South Burlington and Essex Police departments and three explosive-sniffing canine units with Federal Protective Services and Transportation Security Administration responded to the school.

“After an extensive search of the building, utilizing officers from surrounding communities and federal agencies, nothing was found and school resumed,” Shepard wrote in a press release sent out Monday afternoon.

At approximately 11 a.m., Williston School District Principal Walter Nardelli notified parents that “nothing suspicious” had been found.

Nardelli said school officials are reviewing the school’s response to the threat, and that there is always room for improvement.

“I think we learned a lot from it,” he said. “Of course, it’s not the way we want to learn.”

The Williston Police Department is currently investigating the incident. Nardelli said a suspect would be subject to school policies, as well as the law.

“It is unknown who made the call at this time, however the investigation will continue,” the police press release states. “We are thankful that nothing was found in the school, but think it is noteworthy to inform our community the amount of county resources that were expended to handle this false report.”

Monday’s incident was the first bomb threat at Williston Central School.

In 2009, a bomb threat prompted an evacuation at Champlain Valley Union High School, hours after a suspicious device led to an evacuation at Essex High School and Center for Technology-Essex.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Williston Police Department at 878-6611.

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