All three Newberry schools and Eastside High School received bomb threats Tuesday, leading to evacuations and lockdowns.
Just after 10 a.m. Newberry High School (NHS) officials notified parents to pick up students after the school received a fourth bomb threat in as many school days.
Alachua County Sheriff’s (ACSO) deputies responding to the Newberry scene told Mainstreet Daily News that Oak View Middle School received a separate bomb threat. Nearby Newberry Elementary School also received a bomb threat and went on lockdown.
ACSO deputies put up roadblocks around the NHS track area where they are evacuating students after Monday’s text threat that said a sniper would shoot if students were evacuated to West Park again.
In addition to the ACSO deputies and a helicopter, the University of Florida Police K-9 unit responded to the scene. Authorities declared the Newberry campuses all clear shortly before 1 p.m.
Meanwhile, Eastside High School received a bomb threat just after 11 a.m., according to the ACSO. The school was evacuated and the students were dismissed for the day, said Alachua County Public Schools (ACPS) spokesperson Jackie Johnson.
Tuesday’s evacuation marked the fourth straight school day officials had to clear NHS for a bomb threat. Law enforcement found nothing suspicious each of the first three times. Bomb-sniffing K-9 units were sent to all four schools with the University of Florida Police sending three units and ACSO sending two.
“It has reached the point that they are getting more publicity than they deserve,” Johnson said. “We are not sure if it is one person, if it is local, or if it is from out of the area.”
ACSO posted a comment on its Facebook page Tuesday afternoon stating:
“Today marks the 4th day of bomb threats to Alachua County schools, since September 23rd. The Alachua County Sheriff’s Office wants to assure everyone that each threat is taken seriously and a wealth of resources are dedicated to ensure that each incident is fully investigated. Our top priority is the safety and security of students, staff and visitors to all of the schools within Alachua County.
“We are working hard to identify the origin of the threats and the people responsible for making them. This includes many behind the scenes investigatory resources and assistance from other agencies. We know that this string of incidents has disrupted student and faculty life. The community can help us by being aware of your surroundings and report anything suspicious that you see or hear.”
A reward of $4,000 is now being offered and the City of Newberry is matching the $1,000 provided by CrimeStoppers to anyone who comes forward with information leading to an arrest.
Businesses that also contributed to the reward with information leading to an arrest include Spacewalk of Gainesville with $500, Newberry Main Street with $500 and Meldon Law offering to match CrimeStoppers with $1,000.
ACSO is directing anyone with information to contact Criminal Investigations Division at (352) 367-4170. Those who have information that leads to the arrest of a suspect can remain completely anonymous by contacting CrimeStoppers through their “P3 Tips” application available through the App Store or Google Play, or by calling (352) 372-STOP (7867) and www.stopcrime.tv. You can also report tips to the Newberry High School administrators at (352) 472-2201 or online at www.getfortifyfl.com.
Buchholz High School has also received four bomb threats in recent weeks, totaling eight for Alachua County Public Schools since the start of the school year last month. Authorities arrested a Buchholz student in connection with at least two of the threats on Sept. 13.
Newberry Mayor Jordan Marlowe, who is also an NHS history teacher, said Monday the FBI is working with the ACSO to investigate the threats.
“I have total faith in their ability to apprehend whomever is responsible for these threats,” Marlowe wrote on Facebook.
Editor’s note: This has been updated.