Northern Wyoming Daily News - Serving the Big Horn Basin for over 100 years

By Karla Pomeroy
Editor 

Community colleges close after threats

 

September 23, 2016



WORLAND —Northwest College students received an alert Thursday shortly after lunch that the campus was on lockdown, classes were cancelled and students were to return to the dormitories.

According to the Wyoming Office of Homeland Security press release, Thursday morning, the Wyoming Office of Homeland Security received notice of an anonymous email with threats made against state facilities, schools statewide and the Cheyenne Regional Airport. Several other states have received similar emails.

The Wyoming Office of Homeland Security has shared this email information with the appropriate authorities. If any information develops validating the threat, the appropriate parties will be immediately notified.

NWC freshman Hannah Vigil of Worland said she received an alert text from NWC at 12:25 p.m. The text mentioned the lock down but not the threats. She said part of the NWC system also includes an automated call, which she received a few minutes later.

Vigil said she wasn’t in class at the time but in her dorm when she got the text. She went out to find her roommates to see if they got the text and then they all heard the alert over the loud speaker on campus.

The alerts sent students to the website for updated information. The front page of the site said, “Alert: This is not a drill: Late this morning, a bomb threat for schools and governmental buildings statewide was received. As a precautionary measure, all Wyoming community college presidents are closing their campuses and canceling classes for today. Employees should leave the campus immediately. Resident students should go to their respective residence halls where sweeps are being done of the buildings and in the DeWitt Student Center.”

Other community colleges has similar announcements on their website. Western Wyoming Community College issued an official release stating, “President Karla Leach issued the order to cancel classes and vacate buildings at Western at about 12:20 p.m.”

According to the release, “Although we are not aware of any specific threat involving any of Western’s locations, we felt that the appropriate action was to close our locations and await further word from the State,” said Dr. Philip Parnell, Vice President for Student Success Services. “Our first priority is the safety and security of our students, faculty and staff, and given the information provided to us by Governor Matt Mead’s office and the Department of Homeland Security, we believed this was the right action to take.”

At NWC, Vigil said when she first got the text she thought maybe it was as drill, until she went to the website.

“It’s kind of scary,” Vigil said when contacted in her dorm room Thursday afternoon. “We’re still on full lockdown,” she said about 1:45 p.m. “We’re all just here waiting for news.”

Shortly after speaking with Vigil, an update appeared on the NWC website stating the temporary lock-in of residence halls was lifted and dining facilities were reopened. NWC’s campus and NWC Cody Center remained closed. Normal campus activity resumes this morning.

Local schools

Washakie County School District No. 1 was notified of the anonymous threat via email from Washakie County Homeland Security and Emergency Management director Mike Orona.

District Business Manager Jack Stott said the email was the official release from HLS.

“We’ve been in contact with local law enforcement. They’ve communicated to us that they have no reason for credible threats in Washakie County. Also Homeland Security has indicated the same,” Stott said.

He said law enforcement was going to increase their presence in the schools.

“We are proceeding with operations as usual,” he said.

Parents were notified of the threat via the district’s alert system.

According to Worland Chief Gabe Elliott, “Law enforcement has been working with Washakie County School Districts No. 1 and No. 2, and have deemed there are no credible or specific threats for Washakie County.”

Big Horn County School District No. 1 went into a lock-out in all three school buildings in Basin and Manderson, according to Superintendent Dave Kerby. Kerby said the lock out, with restrictive movement, went into effect about 1:20 p.m. and was called off about 1:45 p.m. after they were notified that the threat was “no longer a viable threat.”

For Hot Springs County School District No. 1, classes continued but Business Manager Chauncy Johnson said parents were notified through the district’s alert system and Facebook page about the threat and that classes were continuing as normal.

He said the district did mobilize the transportation group and had them on standby in case anything escalated so the district would be ready to respond.

He said when they realized from state officials and law enforcement that they didn’t believe it was as credible threat “we decided to continue to run our classes but to be ready in case we needed to mobilize students and get them out.”

UW

The University of Wyoming received notification of the threat. Chad Baldwin, associate vice president for communication and marketing, said, “We’ve been on heightened vigilance since receiving word from the Office of Homeland Security on this. We’ve continued with classes because the university was not directly threatened.” He added that other factors included the fact that multiple states were “threatened” as well as the fact that “it was deemed fairly quickly on as not a real credible threat.”

 
 

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