WHEELING - Wheeling Central Catholic High School and all Catholic elementary schools in Ohio County went into full lockdown Wednesday in response to a non-specific threat to the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston office located next door to the high school.
Diocese spokesman Bryan Minor said the lockdown and modified dismissal schedule came after an employee of an unidentified university called the diocese office and reported being contacted by a suspicious person.
"The school followed standard lockdown procedures based on a non-specific threat that there may be a person in the neighborhood acting somewhat suspiciously," he said. "At no time were students, faculty or staff in harm's way."
Photo by Shelley Hanson - An Ohio County sheriff’s deputy stands across the street from Wheeling Central High School Wednesday.
Minor said the university employee said the man appeared to be upset and had a suspicious demeanor.
"She said he told her he had to see the diocese," he said. "She felt it may not be a problem, but it is something we should know about."
According to Minor, school officials called the Wheeling Police Department to assist in the modified dismissal.
"Students who ride buses were dismissed first, followed by those picked up by parents, followed by students who drive, who were escorted to their vehicles," he said. "This was done out of an abundance of caution to protect our school community."
Minor confirmed that Catholic Schools Superintendent Vincent DePaul Schmidt ordered a lockdown of all schools as a matter of caution.
"All dismissals were handled in a very orderly fashion," he said. "Most of our elementary students are picked up by parents most days."
He said school officials activated the automated telephone call system to parents to alert them to what was happening.
Units from the police department, sheriff's department and the police responded for security reasons to each Catholic school in the county.