SKOWHEGAN — Everything was getting back to normal Friday at Skowhegan area schools, but attendance was still down at the high school a day after two students were arrested and charged with terrorizing fellow students and parents with threatening messages on social media.

At Skowhegan Area High School, the normal is about 80 absentees of the 780 total enrollment in grades nine to 12. On Thursday, the second day of threatening messages and the day the two boys were arrested, that number more than quadrupled to 380, according to Principal Bruce Mochamer.

By Friday, the number of students absent from classes at the high school stood at 180, better but still beyond what is supposed to be normal.

“We’re trying to (get) normal back the way it was prior to this issue,” Mochamer said. “That’s where we want normal to be.”

There was anxiety and fear on the part of parents and students alike. School counselors met with students who needed to talk to someone other than a family member about safety.

“There’s still people that have concerns, that are out and kept their kids out today, so it’s definitely a little higher than normal,” Mochamer said Friday. “Our counselors’ doors are open to students. They were open yesterday. They are open today for those students that just had a little bit of anxiety and wanted to go down and see their counselor.”

Mochamer said each student is assigned to a counselor. Some visited Thursday, and a few did Friday.

Thursday’s social media message said that closing the schools in the Skowhegan area the previous day only makes the sender, called “Ray Dar,” want to kill more. “You will be the first to die,” the Snapchat post read.

Skowhegan Police Chief David Bucknam said the two boys – one a Skowhegan Area High School freshman, the other a sophomore – were arrested and taken to the Long Creek Youth Development Center in South Portland. Both are charged with Class C terrorizing, a felony punishable as an adult by up to five years in prison.

Both of the students are juveniles, so their names will not be released until a formal juvenile petition is filed in a felony case.

It was the freshman student who allegedly posted the first threat Tuesday night, according to Bucknam. The second threat allegedly was made by the sophomore.

Mochamer said some parents called the school Thursday to say their student would not be in class. Other parents drove to the school to pick up their children and take them home.

“A lot of kids that were leaving yesterday, most of them were leaving because their parents wanted them to be dismissed and go home,” he said. “Some of the kids wanted to stay at school, but their parents wanted them to leave.”

Mochamer said in some cases the parents were more anxious than their children were.

“The kids that remained here, they felt very safe here during the day,” he said. “That made us feel a little better, definitely in terms of we were here, we knew we were safe and if they felt safe, that reassured us.”

The administrator of the Skowhegan Neighborhood Watch and Information page on Facebook posted this question about sending students back to school Friday: “Curious, do any plan on keeping their kids home one more day just to make sure this whole thing is sorted out?”

Reactions were mixed.

“My high schoolers went,” one mother wrote. “They feel better knowing they ‘caught’ the people.”

“Our children are going today,” another mother replied. “There is no point in them missing another day after the suspects have been charged and placed in custody. They were safer yesterday at school and had more protection than they have ever had!”

Others weren’t so sure Friday.

“He is home till Monday,” a parent wrote. “I am not risking his well-being”

“Yes, one more day just to be sure,” another posted.

Jon Moody, assistant superintendent of School Administrative District 54, where all the schools were closed Wednesday, said the issue is dealt with differently at each level – elementary, middle school and high school.

“If you start with the elementary level, for the most part, it’s about kind of returning to normalcy for those students,” Moody said. “We hadn’t seen a lot of students who were really upset. I think it went quite smoothly at each of the schools.”

Skowhegan Area High School and Middle School, Bloomfield Elementary, North Elementary, Margaret Chase Smith Elementary, Marti Stevens Learning Center, Somerset Career & Technical Center and Mill Stream Elementary School in Norridgewock and Canaan Elementary all were closed Wednesday and on “lockout” Thursday.

Moody said at the elementary level, it was all about teachers identifying students who were upset and might need some assistance. That was addressed in the classroom, and others were referred to the school counselor. There is a counselor in each school, he said.

“At the middle school level, you have the advantage of teams,” Moody said. “You have groups of kids who are already on teams, and the teachers work together to kind of see what those students need. You want to return to a normal schedule and get things going, especially immediately after an event.

“The teachers on each team would identify kids that maybe need some additional support and that would have come through the guidance office.”

There are also “circle conversations” at the middle school to discuss what’s on their minds in a group, as needed, he said.

“At the high school, it’s a little bit of a different animal,” Moody said Friday.

“Bruce and his team really wanted to return the kids to a regular schedule, so that’s what’s happening today.You have a lot of students following the events that occurred in Florida and are very interested in the topic of school safety.”

Doug Harlow can be contacted at 612-2367 or at:

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