Rockne Roll/News-Register##Parents escort students home from Grandhaven Elementary School Wednesday afternoon after a
threatening phone call brought police to the building.
Rockne Roll/News-Register##Parents escort students home from Grandhaven Elementary School Wednesday afternoon after a threatening phone call brought police to the building.
Rockne Roll/News-Register##A family departs Grandhaven Elementary School in McMinnville following a
lockdown after a threat was made against the students Wednesday, May 13.
Police arrived to secure the school soon after the threat was made.
Rockne Roll/News-Register##A family departs Grandhaven Elementary School in McMinnville following a lockdown after a threat was made against the students Wednesday, May 13. Police arrived to secure the school soon after the threat was made.
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School back to normal after death threat

Grandhaven Elementary School operated as usual Thursday, after a phone threat to “kill lots of kids” brought McMinnville police out in force Wednesday afternoon.

Staff members greeted students as they arrived Thursday morning, and police visited the building again as a precautionary measure. Attendance was down slightly and a talent show was postponed, Superintendent Maryalice Russell said, but otherwise operations proceeded as usual.

Wednesday was disrupted when an unidentified woman phoned the school office about 1:40 p.m.

“She said she was going to kill lots of kids,” said Capt. Tim Symons. “She said she was at the school, but didn’t give a location.”

Officers searched the building and surrounding area, but found no threatening person, weapons or materials.

Grandhaven’s kindergarten through fifth-grade students stayed in locked classrooms and continued their lessons during the search. Russell said a jog-a-thon also continued, behind locked gym doors.

It’s standard procedure for exterior doors to be locked at all McMinnville schools, said former sheriff Jack Crabtree, now serving as head of safety for the district.

Visitors must arrive at the front entrance, buzz the office and provide their name and the reason for their visit to gain admission, he said. They must pass through the office, where they are required to sign in and wear a visitor’s badge.

Crabtree and Russell joined police at Grandhaven Wednesday afternoon. Coincidentally, the district and local law enforcement agencies had held a planning session earlier in the day for an upcoming school safety drill, part of an ongoing series of preparations designed to keep schools safe, Crabtree said.

Students also practice safety drills, he said, “so they understand what’s going on.” He said, “It kind of takes the fear out of it for them.”

Everyone involved performed well during the actual event, Crabtree said.

“We’re very fortunate this wasn’t real,” he said. “God forbid if it ever is. But if it is, we’ll be ready.”

As soon as the threat was made, police locked down the kindergarten through fifth grade school, located at 3200 N.E. McDonald Lane.

Streets in the surrounding area were closed while officers investigated. Buses and parents arriving to take children home were asked to wait on nearby streets.

About 50 staff members serve about 600 students, including two shifts of kindergartners, at the school.

“With a call like this, our major concern is the safety of students, staff and the surrounding area,” Symons said. “We took all of those things into consideration. We appreciated the public’s understanding that allowed us to do what we needed to do.”

As part of the investigation, McMinnville police are working to have the call traced, in hopes of identifying a suspect.

They wound up their search about 2:25 p.m. Wednesday, about the time students normally leave for the day.

Students were released two classes at a time. Everyone exited through the main entrance.

Each student took home a letter from Principal Margie Johnson. It read:

“Dear Grandhaven parents,

“This afternoon, at approximately 1:45 p.m., a phone threat was made to the Grandhaven campus. School staff responded by initiating a lock in, meaning students attended their regular classes and did not go outside.

“Police were called, checked the building and were present during school dismissal. We expect to have a regular school day tomorrow. When phone threats or threats of any kind are made, we take the matter seriously in an effort to keep our students safe.

“Thank you for your assistance in keeping schools safe and your support of students of Grandhaven.”

Grandhaven parents also received automated calls featuring a recorded message from Johnson.

The superintendent sent a memo about the incident to all staff Thursday morning. In it, she noted that several schools in Washington had received similar threats.

A series of phoned-in school threats is currently under investigation in Alaska.

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