By Danielle Gamble
The Ellicottville Central School District was on lockout for roughly 20 minutes last week due to a police matter outside of the school, school officials said.
Superintendent Bob Miller said he imposed a lockout at the school at roughly 12:35 p.m. April 11 after law enforcement contacted him about a situation happening near the school.
Ellicottville Police Department Officer-in-Charge Don Auge said the matter involved a male subject, though he declined to elaborate on details as the investigation was ongoing and had been turned over to New York State Police. He added police did not believe the subject had been armed.
“There was never an immediate threat to the school whatsoever,” Auge said. “It was just a police matter — we were looking for a subject and as a precautionary measure … we asked the school if they wanted to lockout.”
As part of the lockout, students continued their normal activities while the perimeter of the building was secured by having all external doors locked and denying anyone access in or out.
Miller said immediately after he made the decision to impose the lockout, he began preparing a robocall message to send out to Ellicottville parents.
“Ironically, I was getting ready to make a call to the parents and as I’m writing that message, I got the call that it was safe to come out of (lockout),” he said.
Included in Miller’s message were details about the timeline of the lockout, a description of the procedure and an assurance that “we did this as a precautionary measure on the advice of law enforcement.”
Miller said he tried to write the message last week with more detail than what he initially released to parents March 23 when Ellicottville Central School went into shelter in place with a lockout for more than half of the school day.
The shelter in place was imposed after a hand-drawn map was found around 8:25 a.m. suggesting a student’s threat, officials announced at the regular ECSD board meeting held March 27. At the meeting, Miller said a lockout had been imposed after the 16 law enforcement officers who responded were not immediately able to identify who created the map. He said they eventually did and security measures were lifted around 12:30 p.m.
Miller apologized to the many parents at the meeting for not calling sooner and providing more information in his first robocall about implementing a shelter in place and a second robocall about implementing a lockout.
“I tried to learn things that we learned with that incident when we called for this lockout,” he said Wednesday. “You’re always constantly learning.”
Miller noted that the lockout April 11 was different than the one March 23 because the more recent event did not begin within the school and did not involve law enforcement entering the school.
“It’s a big decision (to impose a lockout), but it’s a precautionary measure,” he said.
Auge said with recent incidents of violence in the U.S., such as the February mass school shooting in Parkland, Fla., navigating local emergency situations has been “a learning experience for all of us in this county.”
“We don’t have a bunch of incidents, but you’ve got to be prepared,” he added.