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Union Local back in class after bomb threat

T-L Photo/JENNIFER COMPSTON-STROUGH Union Local High School and Middle School resumed their sessions Thursday after students were evacuated during a bomb threat. Normal school will resume today.

BELMONT — Union Local students dealt with a disruption Thursday when the high school and the adjoining middle school were evacuated.

A note with an apparent bomb threat was reportedly found in a restroom.

“It was found by a student and taken to the principal,” Belmont County sheriff’s Chief Deputy James Zusack said.

Law enforcement quickly arrived on scene. About eight officers, including sheriff’s deputies and Flushing police, swept the building for an hour and a half. They determined a K-9 was not needed.

“We had a bomb threat and we went out and took care of that,” Zusack said. “We swept the school, searched the school, then found nothing, so we got the kids back in there and they finished the day out. … They went back into class shortly after lunch.

“It was a good amount of kids, but they all had their plan and a certain place they go. Once everything was cleared, they got back in,” Zusack said.

He said there have not been many school bomb threats in the area recently.

“With COVID and them getting back into school, this was probably the first one we’ve had this year,” Zusack said of the sheriff’s department’s jurisdiction.

However, the Martins Ferry Police Department investigated two separate bomb threats at the schools there in February and March.

UL Superintendent Ben Porter said students and staff resumed the day with minimal disruption.

“We finished out the day. Kids returned to the classes. The sheriff cleared it,” he said, adding that more than 1,000 students were evacuated. “Our high school has probably between 500 and 600 kids.”

Porter said the middle school has about the same number. He said COVID-19 precautions were also kept in mind.

“We do our best to social distance while we’re in school. When you have an emergency, you have to deal with it, and we did the best we could,” Porter said. “We have our protocols and mitigating strategies in place. We do the best we can to follow those.”

Porter said the note has been handed over to the sheriff’s office for investigation. Meanwhile, the job of educating students continues.

“We’ll be in session (today) as scheduled,” Porter said.

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