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Flathead Valley Schools Closed Friday, Events Canceled Through the Weekend

All school activities canceled through the weekend as law enforcement investigates cyber threat

Updated: Sept. 15, 2:30 p.m.

All school activities, events and classes are canceled throughout the Flathead Valley as a precautionary measure amid an ongoing investigation into recent cyber threats.

Administrators announced Friday morning that all activities, practices and other school-related events are canceled through Sunday. This includes home and away games and practices.

Administrators consulted with law enforcement and were advised that the situation has not been resolved, according to an announcement from area districts.

School officials have not decided whether school will resume Monday. An announcement will be made no later than 6 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 17 with an update.

Sportsman & Ski Haus announced it was canceling its party and campout event that was slated to begin Friday afternoon in Whitefish and Kalispell. The annual sales event regularly draws hundreds of gatherers and store managers said people can begin lining up at the stores in Whitefish and Kalispell at 7 a.m. and doors will open at 9 a.m.

In an interview with the Beacon on Friday, Flathead County Sheriff Chuck Curry said law enforcement continues to make progress. Additional “persons of interest” have been identified but no arrests have been made. He declined to elaborate on any details due to the sensitivity of the investigation.

“Based upon our estimation, without revealing any details of the investigation, we certainly feel that there is a credible threat, or at least a potentially credible threat,” he said.

Curry said there does not appear to be any immediate public safety threats.

“We have not had any indication or developed any intelligence or concern that there is a threat or stated threat to the general public or to any other sort of public gathering or events,” Curry said.

“The threats have been isolated to schools and school functions and school personnel.”

The widespread closure is impacting more than 30 schools and roughly 15,700 students. The cancelations include Friday night football games and an open house scheduled at Bigfork High School.

“No practices no matter the venue; i.e. public areas, school property or private property,” Flathead High School Activities Director Bryce Wilson said in a memo. “I know you all are passionate about your activity and I am an advocate for you and our activities. The threat is credible and I know we all have questions, but we will have to trust the decisions made by the valley superintendents.”

The games will be rescheduled if and when possible, Wilson said.

Whitefish’s homecoming week festivities have also been canceled at this time, including the downtown parade scheduled for Friday afternoon.

Heather Davis Schmidt, Whitefish school district superintendent, told the Beacon that schools have been advised by law enforcement to prevent “large groups of students from being together” amid this situation.

Whitefish Activities Director Aric Harris said the homecoming festivities could tentatively resume in early October. Confirmed details will be sent out when they become available.

Curry said the sheriff’s office, Columbia Falls Police Department, Kalispell Police Department and the FBI are working together on the investigation.

“We pretty much have every resource on this right now,” he said.

School officials said when school resumes, “whatever date that may be, we will be developing with principals a message and support resources to be able to share with your students.”

“The safety and best interests of our students and staff remain our top priority,” administrators said. “We will continue to monitor the situation and update communities as we have more information.”

The closure includes all schools in the following districts:

Bigfork

Cayuse Prairie

Columbia Falls

Creston

Deer Park

Evergreen

Fair-Mont-Egan

Flathead Valley Community College (Kalispell and Libby campuses)

Kalispell

Helena Flats

Kila

Marion

Olney-Bissell

Pleasant Valley

Smith Valley

Somers/Lakeside

Swan River

West Glacier

West Valley

Whitefish

Kalispell Montessori

St. Matthew’s

Stillwater Christian

Trinity Lutheran

Whitefish Christian Academy

Woodland Montessori

Area schools closed Thursday as a precautionary measure after school districts in Columbia Falls, Whitefish, Kalispell, Bigfork, West Valley and Smith Valley received anonymous threats via text message and email.

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