Authorities said all schools in the Ralls County R-II School District were evacuated Monday morning following a bomb threat, but nothing was found.
Ralls County Sheriff Gerry Dinwiddie said the threat was called in to the Center Police Department at 9:18 a.m. He said the caller claimed there were two backpacks at the high school that would explode 13 minutes from that time.
Dinwiddie said late Monday morning he believed the threat was fake.
The sheriff's office reported on it's Facebook page that parents could pick up their children at the old ball field behind the elementary school.
"Students have been safely evacuated and accounted for," the Facebook post stated. "Parents should avoid other areas of campus to help ensure an orderly flow of the scene."
No injuries were reported.
"Evacuation process went well," Dinwiddie said at the scene. "We've been over this procedure before. Same as the active shooter drill, we got everyone safely out to the back school playground."
Several parents arrived at the school to pick up their kids.
"Very, very, very scared," parent Lindsey McIntosh said. "Very, very scared. It's a scary feeling."
"I'm shaking," parent Tara Martin said. "I'm freaking out. My kids are 6 and 9 so all this worry, sparked by a bomb threat, police say.
In a news release Monday evening, Dinwiddie stated bomb-sniffing dogs were brought in from Missouri Capital Police - Jefferson City, Pike County Sheriff’s Office, Illinois Secretary of State - Springfield, with Fort Leonard Wood on standby.
"The schools were on lockdown for several hours until they could be cleared by thorough examination of the buildings," Dinwiddie stated.
Authorities said they were investigating who made the threat, but it's unclear if any suspects have been identified.
Mary Grawe Howald said she has three kids that attend the high school, but two of them were on a school trip Monday morning. She learned about the situation through texts from the school district shortly before 10 a.m.
"My first thought was it was a student pranking," Howald said. "But when they said they were evacuating students to the ball field, it kind of unnerved me."
Howald said she's a substitute teacher at the school district. She said they took part in drills recently, so she felt the staff was prepared for this type of situation.
"Unfortunately, I didn't think we would need to be prepared this quickly," Howald said.
Howald was relieved when picking up her kids.
"To pick up the kids and make sure they're safe kind of relieves my nerves but I'm still a little shaky yet," Howald said.
Missouri State Highway Patrol Sgt. Eric Brown said troopers responded to the school at 9:23 a.m. after hearing about the situation on radio traffic out of Ralls County. Brown referred all other questions to the Ralls County Sheriff's Office.
Police and fire personnel from Center and New London were also at the school, along with Ralls County EMS.