GFPS, Catholic schools closed Feb. 10

Great Falls Public Schools are closed Feb. 10, according to the GFPS and the Great Falls Police Department, for an ongoing police investigation.

According to GFPD, “expect to see a police presence at all schools throughout the day. We will update you with more details as they become available. We realize this is an inconvenience for your family, but the safety of your children is of paramount importance.”

In an update from GFPD, officials said that “early this morning a member of the staff found a message posted at a Great Falls Public Schools elementary school. The handwritten note included threatening verbiage, including a bomb threat, targeting multiple schools in the community.

As the safety of all students and staff is always a top priority for GFPS and GFPD, the decision was made to cancel all school activities for the day.”

During an afternoon press briefing with GFPD and GFPS, officials said that at 5:37 a.m., a custodian found a note attached to the exterior of a GFPS elementary school and called 911.

Officials said the handwritten note contained “threatening language including the specific threat of an explosive device being planted at multiple Great Falls schools.”

At that point, GFPD notified GFPS administrators who decided to cancel all school activities for the day.

By 2:30 p.m., all GFPS schools had been cleared and no explosive devices were found, according to officials.

“Investigators have viewed surveillance footage and have a vague suspect description. To protect the integrity of the investigation, we will not be sharing any further details regarding to contents or location of the note, or the suspect,” Capt. Jeff Newton said during the briefing.

Anyone with information about the threat is asked to call Detective Sgt. Rob Beall at 406-455-8547.

School is expected to resume as normal tomorrow, but GFPS Superintendent Tom Moore said any students who don’t feel safe attending can get an excused absence.

Moore said the district is working with the Montana Office of Public Instruction to confirm that under the law the district is allowed an emergency closure of schools without any penalties or having to make up the instructional day.

According to GFPS, students in need of daycare can be taken to Paris Gibson Education Center.

All activities in GFPS schools are cancelled tonight as well.

In an update, GFPD is asking people to stop calling the dispatch center for information, as it will be released on their social media pages and by local media outlets as it becomes available.

“The dispatch center should be used for legitimate medical, fire, and police issues and emergencies.”
According to GFPD, rural schools are not affected, but asks that parents contact the schools directly for more information.

Initially, text messages went to GFPS parents saying Great Falls High would have a delayed start due to safety concerns and that no buses would run to the high school this morning.

Later the GFPS alert system sent a text that read: “Due to circumstances regarding a threat to multiple facilities, all facilities will be closed today.”

According to GFPD, the threat was made specifically to public schools but they notified private schools and colleges in the city of the threat, leaving it up to their administrators on how to proceed.

Holy Spirit Catholic School posted this morning that “due to credible threats to local public schools, our Catholic schools will be following suit with the school day cancelled.”

The University of Providence posted: “Campus will be closed today due to the news from Great Falls Public Schools. They have an on going police investigation for threats to their facilities. There is no immediate threat to our campus at this point, but we take our students, faculty and staff and their families’ safety seriously.”

Five Falls Christian is also closed according to GFPD.

Foothills Community Christian School is closed today as a precautionary measure.

Great Falls College MSU is open today. According to a post, officials there are monitoring the situation with GFPS and will update the public if there are any changes with GFCMSU.

“Be aware of your surroundings, and if you see something suspicious, say something,” according to the GFCMSU post.

In an updated post from the college, officials said they reached out to GFPD and were told the threat was directed at K-12 schools so they didn’t close.

“All public schools were closed out of an abundance of caution. We are working closely with police and administration at Montana State University and the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education to monitor the situation. We always have the safety and security of our faculty, staff and students at the top of our mind and do not make this decision without specific guidance from law enforcement. We also understand that this will create hardship for students who have difficulty finding child care for their children, and faculty will be understanding for any students who do not come to campus today.”