Third lockdown within a week: Irregularity with visitors puts Amherst Regional High School in lockdown Wednesday

Last modified: Thursday, April 03, 2014
AMHERST — Amherst Regional High School officials ordered the school locked down about 2:25 p.m. Wednesday after two adults signed in to the building, signed out and then did not leave.

In an email message sent to families, School Superintendent Maria Geryk said the lockdown was ordered after the two people could not be immediately found upon their return to the school. The individuals finally were identified and cleared by police, and students who had been detained in the building were released at 3:15 p.m.

High school principal Mark Jackson said because the incident occurred after dismissal, about 1,100 students were moving about the hallways. This meant two adults, whose whereabouts were unknown, may have had access to students in an unstructured setting.

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“As we think about these things, that constitutes a threat,” Jackson said.

Students who had already boarded school buses before the lockdown or had already left the building were allowed to leave at that time. Lockdown procedures were then followed, Jackson said, and within three minutes all students still in the building were in secured classrooms with high school staff.

“I appreciated everyone’s cooperation,” Jackson said.

Two teams of police officers proceeded through all the rooms and, at around the same time they completed this security check, school officials determined the adults were no longer in the building after contacting their employer.

Geryk said in her email that after the lockdown ended, the adults in question were instructed in the required safety protocols for visitors entering the school. That consists of being buzzed into the locked front door, obtaining a visitor’s pass at the main office and then signing out.

“They signed in, signed out, then did not exit,” Jackson said.

About 35 to 40 students who missed their buses were taken home around 3:45 p.m., according to Geryk’s email. Those students waited in the auditorium. Other students met their parents and guardians picking them up in the school parking lot.

This is the third lockdown order in Amherst schools within a week, but only the second lockdown at the high school during the 2013-14 school year.

The Amherst Regional Middle School, the high school and Wildwood schools were locked down for about an hour last Wednesday when a man entered a bathroom at the middle school and asked a student for a urine sample. The man was taken into custody later in the day on a parole violation, police said, and is expected to be charged in connection with the incident. All three schools were ordered locked down for safety precautions because they are close to one another, officials said.

On Friday morning, Crocker Farm School was locked down briefly after a cafeteria worker grew concerned over the presence of a man in the school who turned out to be another staff member she did not recognize. That lockdown order lasted for 20 minutes.

Staff writer Scott Merzbach contributed to this story.