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Berkeley school attendance down after threat

Journal photo by Jenni Vincent Berkeley County Sheriff’s Department deputies as well the West Virginia State Police were on the job early Monday morning at Musselman High School, arriving even before buses began bringing students. All county schools had a police presence due to an online threat of gun violence at Musselman that was posted Sunday on social media.
Journal photo by Jenni Vincent
Berkeley County Sheriff’s Department deputies as well the West Virginia State Police were on the job early Monday morning at Musselman High School, arriving even before buses began bringing students. All county schools had a police presence due to an online threat of gun violence at Musselman that was posted Sunday on social media.

INWOOD – Even before the sun was up, it was business as usual at Musselman High School on Monday morning, when teachers began to arrive, school buses lined up in the driveways and students moved toward their classes despite an online threat of gun violence.

But that threat – posted on the hacked Twitter account of a former student – did mean one major difference: law enforcement was visible in and around the building, just as officials had promised Sunday night as the investigation continued into this case.

Even though police had questioned a person of interest at a local residence just hours earlier, Berkeley County Schools Superintendent Manny Arvon said the presence of law enforcement was to provide some additional comfort to anyone still worried about possible problems.

“We want all students to feel safe,” he said, adding that all county schools also had a police presence.

There was no change in school schedules despite the threat, but parents were also free to use their own judgment about whether to send a student since an absence on Monday will be forgiven, Arvon said.

A West Virginia State Police officer was parked in the driveway and also cruised Musselman’s parking lots periodically, while at least three Berkeley County sheriff’s deputies were also at the school – meeting with officials, greeting students and even checking doors to make sure they were locked as classes got underway.

Sheriff Kenny Lemaster said he was satisfied with how things were going at the school during his early morning visit.

“Everything does appear to be going well, but we wanted to be here to hopefully help keep everyone’s fears down a little bit. We have all worked closely together on this since Sunday afternoon, and there is no way superintendent Manny Arvon would have had classes if it wasn’t safe,” Lemaster said.

Principal Holly Kleppner agreed the morning had gone well, but also said attendance was down by about 50 percent.

“Everyone reported at our regular time, and our teachers were very upbeat and positive. And for the students who are here, it is going to be business as usual so that we can keep everyone on track and continue our week as usual,” Kleppner said.

“Attendance is down today, but that’s to be expected. If parents choose to keep their students home, we understand that,” she said, gesturing toward a student parking lot with more empty spots than vehicles.

Kleppner said she appreciated the help given by district officials and law enforcement, as well as other individuals who also provided information to help with the threat investigation.

“In times like this, it’s possible to make this a teachable moment, so we will be doing that by discussing various issues such as cyber safety with the students,” she said.

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