Update: Bomb threat targets schools in several Berkshire communities
This article has been corrected to reflect that the bomb threat call was placed to the Pittsfield Police Department.
A bomb threat disrupted schools in several Berkshire communities, including Lenox, Lanesborough, Dalton and Cheshire, on Thursday afternoon, according to police and school officials.
No devices were found in any of the affected buildings, which also included post offices in Lenox and Cheshire.
Several sources said they heard from police that a number of Pittsfield sites also were mentioned in the threat, but Pittsfield officials could not be reached to confirm those locations.
Lenox Memorial Middle and High School was evacuated and afternoon activities were canceled in response to the threat, which was received by the Pittsfield Police Department via an automated phone call, officials said.
In Dalton, Wahconah Regional High and Craneville Elementary schools also were affected, but they were not evacuated and had normal dismissal, according to Dalton Police Chief Jeffrey Coe. Lanesborough Elementary School also was the target of a threat, but no evacuation was ordered there, either.
"The Lanesborough Fire Department came to the school immediately and informed the principal that it was not a credible threat," said Mount Greylock Regional School District Superintendent Doug Dias, "but they went through the school and conducted a search for anything out of the ordinary."
Shortly after 1:30 p.m., state police in Cheshire were alerted by Pittsfield Police that a caller said "a number of locations would be bombed within 30 minutes," including the post office in Cheshire, according to a state police spokesman.
The nearby Cheshire Elementary School went into "soft lockdown" as a precaution, officials said. The post office had reopened by day's end.
The exact contents of the call and a complete list of targeted locations remained unclear as of late Thursday. Pittsfield police and school officials could not immediately be reached.
In Lenox, police officers and firefighters converged on the middle and high school around 2 p.m., just before the end of classes.
Principal Michael Knybel said the school was closed in response to an "unsubstantiated threat."
"In the interest of student and staff safety and security, we have sent students home early," he said. "Our first concern is the safety of our students and we will make every attempt to ensure this matter is thoroughly investigated and safety is restored."
Students who had after-school activities scheduled were loaded on school buses and driven to Pine Knoll Road, a nearby side street, away from "any alleged danger," Knybel added. Parents were advised by an automated phone message from the school to pick up their students there.
Knybel said scheduled school events, including a boys basketball game at home against Taconic High School and a high school musical rehearsal, would be held as planned on Thursday evening. Just before 4 p.m., the girls basketball team boarded buses for an away game in the Springfield area.
But a middle school Shakespeare rehearsal was canceled.
Knybel noted the school will be open as usual on Friday. Morris Elementary School wasn't targeted by any threats.
Lenox schools Superintendent Timothy Lee was at the school when the evacuation occurred. He praised the staff for getting everyone out safely and the Dufour bus company for providing extra buses to handle the students.
Nevertheless, Lee was troubled by the incident.
"If I had to make a guess, whoever perpetrated this threat was doing so, somehow, with a plan," said Lee. "They wanted to occupy emergency services for a period of time, I don't know why. That's the only thing that makes sense to me."