An empty firearm holster found in the hallway of Williston Middle School led to an evacuation Thursday, the last day of the school year.
Williston Middle School and Bakken Elementary were both evacuated starting at 1 p.m.
Police were called by middle school staff when the holster was found, and police were searching the building on Thursday afternoon, according to Sgt. Detective Caleb Fry with the Williams County Sheriff’s Office.
Police finished their search of the building by 7 p.m. and found nothing threatening, according to a news release from the Williston Police Department.
Parents got messages from the school starting around 1 p.m. telling them to pick up students from both WMS and Bakken Elementary, which share a site and collectively serve more than 1,200 students.
At 1:20 p.m., cars filled the streets around the two schools, and parents were lined up outside the doors to both.
By 1:55 p.m., the lines were gone and the parking lots were mostly empty.
By 2 p.m. the evacuation was mostly complete, and everyone except police had been cleared from the building by 3 p.m., Fry said.
Kevin Klassen, interim superintendent for Williston Public School District No. 1, said the evacuation was ordered to ensure students were safe.
“Student safety is our No. 1 priority, so we took the precautions necessary,” he said.
Klassen thanked police for acting quickly and the school’s staff, students and parents for being calm throughout the evacuation.
This is the second school evacuation of the year. Williston High School was evacuated on April 6 after a bomb threat was called in.
Klassen said that in more than 25 years as an educator this was the first school evacuation he’s been a part of. Klassen was named interim superintendent earlier this month, and when WHS was evacuated, he was working in his normal role as principal of Rickard Elementary.
But, he said, the school’s administrators acted quickly and did the right thing by contacting police and starting the evacuation.
“I think it’s better to be safe than sorry,” he said.
Stephanie Robison, whose daughter attends seventh grade at the middle school, said she got a message from the district about suspicious activity and immediately tried calling the school’s reception desk. She couldn’t get an answer.
She called her daughter’s cell phone, and her daughter told her students were at an assembly and were being dismissed from there.
“I was a bit freaked out, to be honest,” Robison said before she went into the school to get her daughter. “The fact I couldn’t get a hold of the school worried me a bit.”
Students who left items behind when evacuating can come to Williston Middle School or Bakken Elementary between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Friday. All students must check in at the office before getting their belongings.