Bomb threat shuts down Aspen High
It took four words – “blow up the school” – to shut down Aspen High School from Wednesday afternoon until 10 a.m. today.
The threat, written on a boys’ restroom wall, led school administrators to lock down the building; Aspen Elementary and Aspen Middle schools remained open as usual.
The threat indicated the incident would occur today, in the “early morning,” but officials declined to specify the time. It was discovered late Wednesday afternoon by a student, who reported it to school administrators. The bathroom was closed and law enforcement personnel were called in. A press release from the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Department confirmed that a “limited response” was coordinated.
“It’s a tough decision. We need to treat all threats as serious threats; we have to react without overreacting,” Aspen Superintendent John Maloy said of the decision to delay the start of school for the high school only. “So we rely on the sheriff’s department and the police department – those that deal with this type of thing on a regular basis – to guide us.”
An email blast sent to parents Wednesday afternoon explained that law enforcement and security personnel would remain on the scene through this morning. It also stated that “a series of ‘sweeps'” would occur Wednesday evening and again this morning “before opening the high school to students and staff.”
The sweeps did not include bomb-sniffing dogs nor a professional bomb squad, according to Maloy. Rather, given the “authenticity” and “level” of the threat, school maintenance personnel were asked to search the building.
“We know when the threat was written and we were able to lock down the building essentially from that point on, so we know nobody unauthorized got in,” said Maloy, adding that the other buildings on the school campus were also locked down overnight and added security was on hand an added precaution. “Our staff knows the building the best, so they would notice if something was out of line.”
School buses operated on their regular schedule Thursday morning; high school students riding the morning bus were instructed to wait at the District Theatre at the elementary school until the high school was reopened.
No suspects in the bomb threat have been named, but an investigation is under way, including fingerprinting, handwriting analysis and interviews with students and faculty.
This is the first bomb threat at the Aspen public schools since the 2008-09 school year. Schools were locked down on Sept. 30, 2010 for about 90 minutes after a perceived threat was received by a 911 dispatch operator, though nothing ever transpired.
“We understand if parents choose to keep their kids home,” said Maloy. “As always, though, we act in manner we feel is safe for our students and our faculty.”
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