Two Barbour schools evacuated

PHILIPPI – The discovery of what officials described as “suspicious notes” prompted the evacuation of two Barbour County schools Thursday.

One note was found in Philippi Elementary School, while the other was found at Philip Barbour High School. Barbour County Superintendent of Schools Joe Super would not release any specific information about what was written in the notes, but said officials did not believe there was any correlation between them.

As both notes indicated potential harm, officials followed school policies and evacuated the buildings, Super said. He would not confirm whether the two notes were bomb threats.

PBHS students took part in a coded drill prepared specifically for such an incident, and were evacuated promptly. After police performed a visual search, students were sent back to the school and released at the end of the school day, Super said, adding that a canine search was requested but not performed.

Philippi Elementary students were evacuated and taken to Philippi Middle School. After the school was searched, the students were allowed to return.

Asked what the Barbour County Board of Education planned on doing to avoid future situations like the two on Thursday, Super replied, “Everything we possibly can: Closing certain bathrooms, enforcing sign-in, sign-out policies, monitoring things closely, and doing everything we can to prevent things like this from happening.”

Barbour County schools had already experienced multiple threats this school year.

A bomb threat on Sept. 4 caused Philip Barbour High School to be put on lockdown. A separate threat on Sept. 24 – one which was not officially identified as a bomb threat – prompted the evacuation of students at PBHS. The threats were not believed to be related.

A juvenile male Philippi Middle School student was charged with terroristic threats following a bomb threat at the school on Oct. 8, officials said.

Philip Barbour High School was put on lockdown Jan. 9 after school officials learned about a threat. PBHS was evacuated on April 11 after another bomb threat.

On May 12, two juveniles were arrested in connection with a pair of unrelated bomb threats at Philip Barbour High School.

“It’s a terrorist threat,” Super said of bomb threats on May 12. “We are going to be asking the authorities to exact the full measure of the law that they can. I will be asking that restitution be made, financial restitution be made, for all the man hours that were lost for any agency that responded. I will be asking for financial restitution for the hours of instruction that were lost.”