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Erardi Holds A Debriefing For Parents Following Threatening Phone Call



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Following a day that brought back fears for many in the community, Superintendent of Schools Joseph Erardi, Jr, held a meeting at Newtown High School for local residents on Wednesday, October 1.

In a release that came just before the meeting, Dr Erardi explained Sandy Hook Elementary School was evacuated approximately at 10:45 am that morning, following a phoned in bomb threat.

“Although there was little to no danger at any time with the alleged threat the decision was made to make sure that every precautionary step had been taken for the safety of the Sandy Hook staff members and students,” Dr Erardi said in the release. “This same decision would have been made for all other Newtown schools. I would like to personally thank both the Newtown and Monroe Police Department for their unyielding support throughout the evacuation. I would also like to thank the Sandy Hook administration and staff for their full cooperation as they did an exceptional job with this evacuation event.”

By Wednesday evening, Dr Erardi also announced the building and grounds were cleared for occupancy by state safety experts and that classes would resume at its normal start time on Thursday, October 2.

“They have scoured the grounds and the school of Sandy Hook School, [located at Monroe’s Chalk Hill Middle School], and there is absolutely no threat in that building or on the grounds,” Dr Erardi told parents gathered in the high school’s auditorium Wednesday evening.

Dr Erardi was joined by school administrators, members of the Board of Education, and Newtown Police Chief Michael Kehoe.

Dr Erardi told those assembled that there would be enhanced security at the school for some time, but reiterated it is “100 percent safe to attend school tomorrow on time at Sandy Hook.”

Explaining that he could not share full details about what occurred that morning, Dr Erardi said an ongoing investigation “that is being pursued with diligence” is still underway by local state and regional law enforcement agencies.

Dr Erardi then shared a brief timeline, without giving details that he said could hinder the ongoing investigation, of what occurred that morning.

Sharing that a “complex phone call” came in to the school minutes after 9:30 am, Dr Erardi said the details of the phone call were immediately shared with Sandy Hook School Principal Kathy Gombos, and that lead to conferencing with both the Monroe and Newtown Police departments and school administration.

Immediately, he said, the group set about determining whether there was a threat in the building, while considering the caller’s nature and not knowing where the phone call was made from.

“With the determination that there was either an extraordinary low threat or no threat, we made the decision, and I own the decision, that we evacuate,” said Dr Erardi. “I’d rather stand here this evening and err on the side of absolute caution and safety than have a different conversation.”

During the past week, Dr Erardi said, the Sandy Hook School staff and students had happened to rehearse an evacuation to neighboring Jockey Hollow Middle School. The same procedure was followed Wednesday morning.

An investigation began after the children were evacuated, but Dr Erardi said no one knew how long that would take. Shortly after the evacuation, Dr Erardi said the decision was made to release students early, starting at noon.

By 1 pm, Dr Erardi said, it was determined that all students were home safe.

Reviewing the response from law enforcement, Dr Erardi said, “I stand here 100 percent positive that Sandy Hook at Chalk Hill is a very, very safe place to open our school doors tomorrow.”

Ms Gombos later explained that while being evacuated and while waiting at Jockey Hollow Middle School, the Sandy Hook School students were not given details of what was occurring by adults. References were made to the previous week’s rehearsed evacuation. She also said a message would be shared with students on Thursday, telling them that adults are there for them, and extra support staff would be made available.

The superintendent, Ms Gombos, and Chief Kehoe also answered questions from parents during the evening.

While Dr Erardi said he could not respond to all of the questions, due to not being able to share details about the investigation, he assured parents he felt the decisions to evacuate and release school early were appropriately made at those times.

Other questions from parents focused on what students were told, how many other threats have been made to the school or district, and communicating with other schools. One parent asked why his wife was told a “lockdown” was occurring then lifted when she dropped off their student that morning. Dr Erardi said a lockdown was never put in place, and could not answer why the parent was told otherwise.

The superintendent answered what he could, he said, and told others that he would follow up on their questions offline, specifically questions regarding security details.

Dr Erardi also said he is confident that if there is “any way on this Earth” for law enforcement to apprehend the person responsible for the threatening phone call, he knows it will happen.

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