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Escalante evacuates after bomb threat

By Chase Olivarius-Mcallister , Shane Benjamin Herald staff writers

Escalante Middle School was evacuated Friday afternoon after school officials learned of a bomb threat scrawled on a boys bathroom stall.

Faculty members escorted more than 500 students out of the building to a subdivision at the southeast end of the football field as fire trucks rushed to the scene.

Dan Bender, spokesman for the La Plata County Sheriff’s Office, said law enforcement declared the building safe at 3 p.m. after two visual sweeps of the school yielded nothing suspicious.

Durango School District 9-R Interim Superintendent Bill Esterbrook said Tim Arnold, principal of Escalante, called him around 1:45 p.m. to report that members of Escalante’s staff had discovered a message scrawled on the stall that said, “bomb go off 5/11/12 2 p.m.”

Esterbrook said he did not know who wrote the scrawl, but said, “One might suspect it was done by a student.”

At 2:45 p.m. Friday, Escalante sixth-graders Jarryn Bodine and Myah Jones, both 12, who were on their way to Home Depot where they hoped to meet with their parents, said that the evacuation began in seventh period.

“At first I thought it was a joke. But then the counselor said it wasn’t a joke, and I started to get scared,” Bodine said.

Jones, who was in band class when the evacuation began, said the evacuation had been very orderly.

On Friday afternoon, Esterbrook said the district was obliged to order the evacuation of the school.

“It’s very troublesome any time that you have to shut down a school, but it’s a threat, and we take it very seriously that the lives of Escalante’s students and the staff were threatened,” he said.

He said the district’s evacuation plan was followed.

“Tim and his staff did a remarkable job – all students were accounted for at all times,” he said.

The Sheriff’s office and school officials will perform an investigation. Esterbrook said if suspects are identified, disciplinary and legal action would be taken.

Bender said that threats of this nature disrupt school activities and can be dangerous because emergency vehicles drive with lights and sirens to respond.

“We take the matter very seriously,” Bender said.

cmcallister@durangoherald.com, shane@durangoherald.com

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