Hoax call a shock, Port Angeles schools chief says

Brewer: Sixth-grade band will continue

PORT ANGELES — When Marty Brewer had the chance to listen to the call that led to a lockdown at Port Angeles High School on Thursday, it sounded unlike anything he had heard over the course of his 35-year career as an educator.

“It felt different,” said Brewer, the Port Angeles School District superintendent. “He [the caller] was very lethargic, talked about shooting the school up and said he was standing outside the main entrance of Port Angeles High School. The bell ring sounded just like Port Angeles High School’s bell and then shots were fired.”

Speaking at the Port Angeles Business Association meeting Tuesday morning, Brewer described to members how law enforcement and staff reacted to the call, which eventually was determined to be a hoax.

In a separate issue, Brewer also said the sixth-grade band program will continue.

“That’s not going away,” Brewer said. “That’s really good news.”

In addition, he presented insights into the district’s budget challenges and a timeline for construction of the Monroe Playfield project.

The “swatting” call that led to the Port Angeles High School lockdown also affected other districts on the North Olympic Peninsula. Sequim and Port Townsend high schools went on modified lockdowns briefly after the recorded call went out. “Swatting” is a term used to describe making a hoax phone call about serious crimes to emergency services agencies.

Brewer praised law enforcement’s’ rapid and prepared response to the emergency at PAHS on Thursday, saying police were on campus so fast they beat the dispatcher’s call to the school secretary.

“It wasn’t like Uvalde where they were outside planning or thinking about what they were gonna do,” Brewer said. “They were in and I’m so appreciative of that.”

The entire 40-acre campus was locked down within minutes — all exterior, corridor and classroom doors closed and secured.

“The officer in charge who went to every room to do a room clear, found no unlocked doors,” Brewer said. “He was actually shocked. He said, ‘I don’t know how you did it, but everything was locked down and your staff was doing exactly what they were supposed to be doing.’ That was a huge, huge compliment to our procedure.”

Brewer said that although the staff did everything they should have done, there was still room for improvement.

“One of the challenges was the PA system, which is brand new, and students use for announcements,” Brewer said. “The cord was unconnected, and so when we went to make the announcement to go into lockdown, it wasn’t working.”

The school did have a workaround, but Brewer said that wasn’t good enough. So, they mounted the PA system on the wall so it could never again become unplugged.

“We want our first system to work and to work the way it should,” he said.

Sixth-grade band

The sixth-grade band program had been on the chopping block as part of the district’s plan to remedy its $5 million budget shortfall, but it got a reprieve when high school band instructor and music department chair Jarrett Hansen presented Brewer and Assistant Superintendent Michelle Olsen with a plan to keep it alive.

The district will move forward with hiring a full-time music teacher who will teach only sixth-grade band, while Hansen will teach high school band classes, middle school percussion and seventh- and eighth-grade band.

The plan will be revisited when the renovated Stevens Middle School opens in 2028 and starts receiving sixth-graders.

Brewer said the budget shortfall also led the district to cut the NatureBridge program and to hand out 75 reduction in force letters this spring, although some of these letters were called back immediately and others will be called in the coming weeks and months, thus the number does not represent the amount of staff and teachers who will lose their jobs.

Brewer said a combination of falling enrollment, inadequate special education funding and the state’s funding model that negatively affects the district have all contributed to its financial situation.

Monroe Playfield

The district used a combination of capital project levy money, proceeds from the sale of its former administration building on Fourth Street Ground and another property on Mount Pleasant to fund the $1.58 million Monroe Playfield.

Bruch and Bruch is scheduled to begin groundwork on the site of the former Monroe Elementary School on Monday. A contractor will begin installing the turf on July 1 with the goal of being ready in the fall.

While the field will host some high school sports, Brewer said he wanted people to know its primary purpose was as a community asset.

“We have very few options for students on the east side of town and this is a spot where they can go and play,” Brewer said. “It’s probably more for the community than it is Port Angeles High School athletics.”

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Reporter Paula Hunt can be reached at paula.hunt@soundpublishing.com.

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