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January 18, 2013

Two area schools react to threats

While neither of two recent incidents at local schools involved any violence, school administrators said everyone is much more alert to the possibilities following the shootings at Newtown, Conn.

The most recent incident occurred Wednesday, when Cooperstown Central School was put on lockdown. At about 10 a.m. the elementary school received secondhand information of a non-specific threat to the school, Superintendent C.J. Hebert said. Following an investigation by the Cooperstown Police Department, with the help of deputies and other area police agencies, the information was determined to be unfounded, according to a police media release. Chief Michael Covert said he was limited about what he could say because the incident is still under investigation. Hebert also could not say more for the same reason.

When the information was received both buildings were placed on lockdown procedures, according to the school’s safety plan, Hebert said. Outdoor activities were halted, the buildings were locked and the entries restricted.

“The entire country has a heightened sense of awareness” since the Sandy Hook shootings, Hebert said. However, before that happened, Cooperstown, like other state schools, developed their safety plans for these types of incidents.

When Wednesday including happened, the school, using its automated calling system, notified parents and guardians of the situation as soon as there was information that was specific and pertinent, with an eye to maintaining order while the process ran its course, he said.

As in any case, the school could not provide information on the name of a student, except when safety required it.

“We felt good” about the response of staff and faculty, and all police agencies, he said. “It remained a safe campus throughout the day.” The safety plan was already reviewed and no changes appear to be needed.

In a letter going home to parents, Friday, Hebert outlines what happened and addresses a concern that followed the incident. The first call that went out on Power Announcement was mistakenly transmitted with a blank message. When the mistake was recognized, a second message was sent. The police investigated the individual who supposedly made the threat and when it was determined to be unfounded, a follow-up message was sent.

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