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Students find shade from the hot sun after the threat of an explosive device was received at Deer Valley High School in Antioch, Calif., on Monday, April 22, 2013. At 3 p.m. the campus was cleared by police and students were released. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group)

ANTIOCH -- Three school days. Five bomb hoaxes. And thousands standing around for hours waiting to find out what is going on.

Officials received anonymous calls Wednesday morning saying that Antioch High and later Deer Valley High had explosive devices on campus, a crescendo to an already bizarre week of students and faculty being uprooted from classrooms while authorities make sure the coast is clear.

Several parents and teachers at the two schools, particularly Deer Valley, are saying the daily occurrences are becoming ridiculous. Additionally, the false alarms are tying up Antioch's already-limited police resources, jeopardizing student learning and could cost the district thousands of dollars.

Police sent five officers onto Deer Valley's campus to check for the explosives Monday and Tuesday, Capt. Steve McConnell said. Both searches lasted a couple of hours.

After "it became obvious" that the ongoing calls were pranks, one officer was sent to schools on Wednesday to work with campus officials on conducting searches, he said.

Deer Valley is now to the point where it is judging each call based on its own merit to determine whether an evacuation is necessary, Principal Ken Gardner said. No evacuation was ordered for a hoax call received just after 1 p.m., he said.

Police say they are working all investigative leads, including trying to identify where the calls are coming from.


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District and police officials are also working to create a new protocol on handling future situations.

Superintendent Donald Gill said that he's been told there's strong suspicion that whoever is responsible for the calls "is not an outsider."

Calling in bomb threats is a misdemeanor punishable up to a year in jail, for each offense, according to police. Restitution for incurred costs is also a viable punishment option, McConnell said. If a student is responsible, he would be expelled.

More so than the potential financial loss, Gill said his biggest concern is students being pulled away from the learning environment, particularly before upcoming state and Advanced Placement exams.

"There needs to be a sense of normalcy, teachers helping students learn so they can maximize the ability to show what they know," Gill said. "Any time we have students not in class and not learning, it's a huge problem."

Several nearby communities recently have had bomb threats at schools, including four in three school days at Tracy high schools last month. Hoaxes at Tracy High and Kimball High on March 13, 14 and 18, which were similar in nature to this week's Antioch events, cost that district about $101,000, officials said.

Deer Valley students interviewed Wednesday seemed to be growing accustomed to the bomb scares.

"I think it's a prank caller ... I don't think there is actually a bomb," sophomore Sebastian Rodriguez, 15, said. "Someone is going to have to pay for (the bomb scares). Financially, this is not helping."

Fellow sophomore Jordan Miller, 15, said while the bomb scares have provided an excuse for getting out of class, there is a flip side: making up for lost time.

"That's the bad part of it," he said.

At this point, the district is not planning additional school days. However, the school year "might have to be lengthened as a consequence of constantly having to evacuate" and cuts into instructional time, Gardner said.

The hoax calls are also taking a toll on parents and teachers.

"Hopefully, these are pranks, but with what's going on in the world to use fear against the school and the students is really sick," said Mark Mundy, whose daughter is an Antioch High sophomore. "When I was in school, it happened every now and then and was not a big deal, but four in three days is ridiculous."

Staff writer Eve Mitchell contributed to this story. Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.

HAVE A TIP?
Anyone with information regarding the hoax cases are encouraged to call Antioch police Detective Matthew Koch at 925-779-6895. The district and police are also encouraging students or others with information to text a tip to 274637 (CRIMES) using key word ANTIOCH.