Fewer students were in school Monday, April 15, but the day mostly progressed as usual, according to local school and police officials.
According to information from the Elkhart Police Department, a threat had been made in mid-January to schools in Elkhart and St. Joseph counties from an unknown person, threatening to “kill 20 kids in five different schools” on Monday.
Local schools and police departments said they had taken extra security measures, in addition to their usual precautions, but plenty of local families kept their children home.
Doug Thorne, Elkhart Schools executive director of personnel and legal services, said that preliminary numbers showed that 30 to 40 percent of students attended school, though he said administrators wouldn’t have exact numbers until Tuesday.
“As I have been talking to staff and observing students, it appears as though the atmosphere in our schools is calm,” he said in an email early Monday afternoon. “When I was in a building earlier this morning students seemed to be going about their day as though it was a normal school day.
“Generally speaking, I believe that schools today were safe and secure and a positive place for learning to take place.”
Jodee Shaw, Elkhart Schools communication coordinator, said after the end of the school day that she had not heard of anything suspicious at Elkhart schools.
The Elkhart County Sheriff’s Department had officers taking extra patrols near schools Monday.
“It was pretty quiet,” Capt. Jim Bradberry of the sheriff’s department said Monday afternoon. “I’m hoping it stays that way,” he added later.
Assistant Chief Laura Koch of the Elkhart Police Department also said that nothing happened Monday related to the threat. Koch and Thorne held a press conference Monday morning, noting that police and school leaders work together to keep kids safe daily, whether there a threat or not.
Like Elkhart, other local school systems had significantly lower attendance, but school staff tried to make the day feel as normal as possible.
Numbers were at 71 percent population for Jimtown’s four schools, which according to Nathan Dean, director of operations, was “not outrageous.”
Dean said that the biggest drop came at the intermediate and elementary buildings while the high school was at near 90 percent and the junior high was at 82 percent.
Baugo usually runs “85 to 90 percent,” according to Dean.
Superintendent Wayne Stubbs said that 55 percent of students were there Monday, with about the same amount of students at each building. Attendance is usually between 95 and 100 percent, he said.
Stubbs had been to every Concord school building Monday morning and said that while faculty were trying to make it as normal as possible, things like a police car at a school’s entrance and so few students in classes made it difficult to not realize the situation.
Attendance was at about 81 percent Monday, Fairfield Superintendent Steve Thalheimer said. Attendance is usually between 92 percent or higher, he said.
“All of our efforts today are to make it as normal of a day as possible,” Thalheimer said. He went to Fairfield’s schools earlier Monday morning and said that things seemed to be as usual.
According to Goshen Superintendent Diane Woodworth, between 50 and 55 percent of elementary school students were present Monday, while the percentage of students in the middle school and high school was slightly higher than that. The school corporation’s overall attendance rate is usually between 90 and 95 percent.
Woodworth said that everything was as it usually is at Goshen schools. “It was a normal day,” she said.
A system with a normal in-attendance rate of 94 to 97 dropped to 64 percent, according to Superintendent Jane Allen.
“As a mother, I can’t image thinking there’s a possibility of a threat, especially to the little ones,” Allen said. “We’ve tried to be as normal as possible.”
Jim Bennett, director of curriculum and instruction, said that Wa-Nee school classrooms were down by 25 percent in Nappanee and Wakarusa buildings.
“We generally have 95, 96, 97 percent, so that’s pretty significant,” Bennett said. He also said that Wa-Nee tracks every absence and that many parents called in advance, some last Friday, and informed schools that they would keep their children home.
“We had parents call and ask what will happen if I do keep my child home,” said Bennett, who noted that he was “a little bit surprised’’ at a 75 percent class population on Monday, but that “parents have the right to protect their children.”
Attendance at Penn-Harris-Madison was at about 68 percent, according to Denise Seger, the district’s associate superintendent.
Rumors on Twitter and Facebook at midday Monday that Penn High School was on lockdown after a shooting were false, Seger said.
Reporters Sharon Hernandez, Bill Beck and Emily Pfund contributed to this article.