November 25, 2014

Elyria
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32°F
test

Mayan calendar cycle end adds to tension at schools

Police and school officials said Thursday they were approaching today’s much-ballyhooed hypothesized end of the ancient Mayan calendar with a healthy measure of skepticism.

Television and social media have been filled with sometimes sensationalized reports of the “end of the world” as supposedly foretold by the Mayan calendar in the same week that the media has been saturated with coverage of the school shootings in Connecticut that killed 20 children and six adults.

“Our kids are upset in general after last week’s tragedy and all of this discussion about the Mayan calendar and the end of the world,” Elyria Schools Superintendent Paul Rigda said.

“We have to remember we deal with children,” Rigda said when talking about their sensitivity to, and reactions to, humorous reports on television and radio about end-of-the-world parties. “They take a lot of that stuff literally … the young ones do, and I think it scares them.”

While the district is not looking into any incidents or reported threats of any kind, Rigda said there “is a nervous edge left over from last week, and we’re reassuring them every day that they’re safe.”

The district has had extra police patrols in neighborhoods and school buildings.

“We have always had good security procedures … and we’ve welcomed the extra presence from our police,” Rigda said.

He also praised the school district’s staff for being “strong and steady and reassuring to our students every day” about safety plans in the event something happens,” which Rigda said “is pretty improbable.”

A two-word note was found in a girls’ restroom Thursday at Avon Lake High School that contained a threat which Avon Lake Schools Superintendent Robert Scott declined to disclose.

“That’s the first incident we’ve had this week,” Scott said.

While Avon Lake police are continuing to investigate the note, they were able to determine “fairly quickly” it did not appear to be a valid threat, Scott said.

“With what went on last week in Newtown, and now this, it has a lot of people on edge,” Scott said. “I talked to a lot of parents this afternoon.”

Even as school officials there were not planning to take any special measures today, they did talk with teachers.

“We asked them to be a bit more vigilant — listening and watching, to keep their eyes open,” Scott said.

North Ridgeville police Capt. Marti Garrow downplayed reports of a threat at North Ridgeville High School but said police will use extra caution and have extra patrols.

School officials and police have previously said they were investigating threatening online postings that allege future violence at the school. Rumors circulated that Dec. 21 was possibly the day referenced in those posts.

“As far as the Mayan calendar is concerned, there’s been a lot of hype around that with the kids,” North Ridgeville Schools Superintendent Jim Powell said. “Some of it is silliness. I just wonder if some of the kids believe the things they’re saying.”

“All week, we have had added security and will do more of the same tomorrow,” Powell said Thursday.

North Ridgeville police Capt. Marti Garrow said investigations into alleged threats have failed “to locate a complainant. Nothing panned out to have any substance.

“Due to it being the 21st and the rumors of it being the end of the world, as well as the recent tragedy in Connecticut, we, and every police department around the country, will be taking extra steps.”

“Obviously this is an attempt to disrupt the day,” Scott added.

Chronicle staff writer Rona Proudfoot contributed to this story. Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or sfogarty@chroniclet.com.