The Kimball Fire & Rescue Department responded to the high school Monday morning, April 1, to secure the campus and assist the evacuation of students and staff. Also responding to the scene were several officers from the Stearns County Sheriff’s Office, Watkins Ambulance, Minnesota DNR Conservation Officers, and the St. Cloud Police K9 unit. Staff photo by Jean Doran Matua.
By Jean Doran Matua, Editor
The date on the calendar had nothing to do with the 911 call made just before school was to start Monday morning, April 1.
A high school teacher had seen the words “the bomb is in the building” written on a classroom whiteboard. This was reported to the high school principal who alerted the superintendent and then Stearns County law enforcement. The high school was evacuated without incident to one of several designated evacuation points; the elementary school was put on soft lockdown (where classes are locked into their classrooms and instruction continues).
The young student who wrote those words came forward and was interviewed. Law enforcement determined that the message was neither intended as a threat nor as a prank; it was simply an error in judgment on the part of the student.
A K9 search of the building was conducted. Law enforcement was convinced there was no malicious intent by the student, and that there was no danger to students, staff, or the building. By about 10:15, both schools were back to normal except running on a two-hour late start schedule.
“Our kids’ safety is the most important thing,” superintendent Erik Widvey said Monday afternoon. He praised students, staff, and law enforcement for the smooth evacuation. The protocols and procedures that are in place at both schools worked, he said. “I thought it went really well.”
There was only one glitch: most parents received telephone notification of the evacuation at about 8:30 that morning, but not every parent was notified. The same parent-notification system that sends out calls when there is a weather delay or special activity was used in this case. The cloud-based software had not been entirely updated, Widvey explained, something that is being corrected now.
Within less than 15 minutes, deputies of the Stearns County Sheriff’s Office were on scene, along with Captain Jon Lentz who has been acting as interim Kimball Police chief. The sole Kimball Police officer was not scheduled to work Monday morning but could have been called in, Lentz said Tuesday, if there was need. Minnesota DNR conservation officers, who are fully authorized law enforcement officers, also responded to the scene. Watkins Ambulance was called in as well, staying until the all-clear at around 10:15.
Lentz also seemed pleased that everything went well in this incident that turned out not to be a real threat. It helped, he said, that there were 12 Kimball Fire & Rescue members already inside the building (on staff), and they were very helpful in both the evacuation and search of the school. In his 28 years in law enforcement, this one was a first for him.