CAPE ELIZABETH — An automated bomb threat was phoned into the main office at Pond Cove Elementary School on Tuesday morning, prompting police and school officials to evacuate the elementary and middle schools before canceling classes early.

Cape Elizabeth Superintendent Meredith Nadeau said the middle school and elementary school were evacuated within about five minutes after the school received the threat at 10:17 a.m., and no one was hurt while students were moved to the nearby high school.

All students were dismissed by 1:15 p.m., giving police time to sweep all three school buildings, according to an email sent to parents by Cape Elizabeth High School Principal Jeff Shedd. He said the middle and elementary students were moved to the high school’s cafeteria and gym, while the high school students remained in their classrooms. Classes were canceled for all three schools after officials determined it would be difficult to continue the school day with all the students being contained at the high school. About 1,600 students attend the three schools.

“I don’t know the specific details of the bomb threat, only that there was a bomb at the school,” Nadeau said. Police are working to determine who was responsible for the call, in which a computer-generated voice delivered the threat.

Cape Elizabeth Police Chief Neil Williams would not comment when reached by phone at home Tuesday night.

Bomb-detection dogs were brought in by the police department to search the elementary and middle school buildings, according to a news release from Nadeau late Tuesday afternoon.

Parents were notified of the evacuation, but not its cause, in an automated message sent around midday Tuesday that said all students had been accounted for, leaving many scrambling to pick up their young children.

As scores of parents began arriving at the schools to pick up their children, long lines formed at the high school. Parents were being asked to show photo IDs before administrators would release their children.

One parent, Abhishekh Govind, said he moved to Maine from the New Jersey-New York area five years ago so his children could grow up in a safe community. He was relieved there appeared to be no legitimate threat, but was still disheartened to see that such dangers exist everywhere.

“Last week we had that guy walk through the middle school, and now this,” Govind said, referring to a lockdown last week when a man who was a former student was arrested for trespassing after he walked into schools at least twice.

“It’s something in Cape Elizabeth that you wouldn’t think about happening. It shows it can happen anywhere,” he said.

Another parent, Aron Buterbaugh, said he was concerned about the threat, but that such dangers have existed for years.

“When I was a kid, we had bomb threats, too,” he said.

Buterbaugh was also concerned about the intrusion by the man last week.

“They did the best they could, but it was a little surprising,” Buterbaugh said.

Nadeau said police told her on Tuesday that they did not believe the threat was connected to the incident March 16, when 25-year-old Nathaniel Lavallee somehow entered Pond Cove Elementary School and went to multiple classrooms, asking children at one point if they wanted to see a magic trick. The staff directed him to leave, before police eventually arrived and drove Lavallee home.

He returned about an hour later, at the middle school, but was intercepted quickly by a teacher, and when Lavallee left the building, he was arrested and charged with criminal trespassing.

Lavallee had attended Cape Elizabeth schools. He was taken to the Cumberland County Jail in Portland and released after posting $200 cash bail.

Students are expected to return to class as usual Wednesday.

 


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