The impacts of two lockdowns in a row continued to ripple across Clovis West High School and Fort Washington Elementary School, both of which saw below-average student attendance Tuesday.
Clovis West’s attendance rate was 78.9%, while Fort Washington’s was 83.3%, spokeswoman Kelly Avants told GV Wire. By comparison, the district’s overall attendance rate Tuesday was 93.2%.
Students who stayed out of school Tuesday lost more instruction time on top of disruptions to class time on Friday afternoon and Monday morning during the lockdowns.
Their absences also are expensive for the district, which gets attendance-based funding from the state. School costs such as staff salaries remain the same even if students are missing.
Avants could not say exactly how much funding the district will lose because of the student absences but added, “anytime the attendance rate drops, it has repercussions on finances.”
Message From Principal
Clovis Unified knew there was a possibility of student absences Tuesday, Avants said, so Clovis West Principal Eric Swain sent the following message Monday night:
“Good afternoon Golden Eagle families. This is Principal Eric Swain with an important message to our community in the wake of two fake threats made to our campus Friday and this morning. The disruption to our students, our staff and to you as parents is completely unacceptable, and most importantly I want to reassure you that the investigation by law enforcement has confirmed that at no time did an actual, credible threat exist to the safety of our students. I know it did not feel that way, because we will take any report like these seriously, but be assured that there was no credibility to these reports.
“A joint task force of federal, state and local law enforcement is working to identify the individual, possibly someone outside of our country, responsible for this incident of ‘swatting’ — an intentional effort to disrupt our schools. I have been asked by some if we will cancel school as a result. We will not, and I wanted you to hear from me the reasoning for this decision. These threats were not credible; our kids’ learning is important; and that learning happens every day at school. Here at school we have talked with our students about the number of people in our law enforcement community as well as across the district and in our own Clovis Unified police force, who wake up every day focused on providing a secure learning environment for our kids. The support we have received from all of these individuals has been incredible, and it reminds me that there is a team willing to wrap around our school at the first hint of need.
“Our campus is safe. We will continue to educate our students who are at school, and provide opportunities when students return from an absence. We cannot empower people like this, nor let them undermine the emotional well-being of our students and our team. At the same time, we have resources at school to support anyone struggling with the events of the past two school days and are prepared for the possibility that something like this could happen again (and would again take it seriously until a thorough investigation takes place). Thank you for supporting our team and our students, and for reaching out if you or your child are struggling and need support.”
Although the phoned threats on Friday and Monday threatened violence at the high school, the school district took the precaution of also putting nearby Fort Washington Elementary on lockdown both days while law enforcement officers investigated and then determined that neither threat was credible.
On Friday, students at both schools were on monitored releases, while on Monday schools resumed normal operations after about an hour.
Lockdowns Spark Fears
District officials understand that even though both incidents were deemed to be hoaxes, students and their families have had to deal with fearful, traumatic situations. But letting fear win out hands a victory to hoaxers whose goal is to be disruptive and sew chaos, Avants said.
“When we stay home, we empower the perpetrator,” she said.
Avants said that Clovis Unified police are part of a joint investigation to determine who is responsible for the phone calls. Such investigations can take months, but district officials are hopeful that the person responsible will be identified so they can be made accountable, she said.