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Parents react to triple Vail school bomb threat

Three high schools on the Southeast side received bomb threats today. As of this afternoon, PCSD has deemed the threats not credible and those lockdowns have been lifted
Posted at 8:10 PM, Apr 16, 2024

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Three high schools on the Southeast side received phone call bomb threats today.

Those schools were Desert Sky Middle School, Empire High School and Cienega High School, with those threats prompting lockdowns at the three Vail schools. As of this afternoon all threats have been deemed not credible by the Pima County Sheriffs Department.

By the time I got to Desert Sky at about 2 p.m. there were long lines of cars with parents anxiously waiting to pick up their kids.

Desert Sky Middle School

Schools administrators were tending to the parents and letting them know where to pick up their kids, who were waiting outside in the field. Police then searched the campus and gave the "all clear."

I spoke with parents who said unfortunately this isn't their first time receiving messages from administration of school threats.

"It's probably a false alarm," one Desert Sky Middle School parent said. "But better safe than sorry."

Another parent who was parked and was walking toward the school told me, "We received some message, some month ago that there's a threat or something like that. This is the second time, but now there's a lot of police and we don't know what's happening."

I arrived to Empire High School around 2:40 p.m. and there were long lines of cars backed up because Old Vail Rd./Houghton Rd. was closed off. I drove around and was still met with long lines on Mary Ann Cleveland Way.

Empire High School

By the time I arrived, the streets were opened up and law enforcement was on their way out. Students from Empire High, VIC and Vail Blended student drivers were asked to drive themselves home, per the Vail School District.

Empire High School

After the scene was cleared at Empire High, I made my way to Cienega High School and arrived at about 3 p.m. where things were calming down.

The campus parking lot was filled with deputies and parents waiting in backed up lines around 2:30 p.m. while I was at the other schools.

KGUN 9 photographer, Jim Pfalzer, was able to capture what the scene looked like before I got there:

Cienega High School

I spoke off-camera with a mother of three kids who attend Cienega High School. She tells me she actually got out of her car to get her kids herself from the school.

The mother told me, "This was a hard situation because of a lack of communication."

She went on to say her children were outside for about three hours and described 'lots of back-and-forth' between school staff, security and the students.

The mom said she went to get her kids herself after some time passed because she has PTSD from the tragic Uvalde shooting and she couldn't just sit and do nothing.

Cienega High School

After-school activities were canceled for both Desert Sky and Empire, but not for Cienega High School. By the time I left Cienega this evening around 6:30 p.m., I saw lots of people on the school's athletic fields.

Superintendent John Carruth of Vail Unified School District confirms school will function as normal tomorrow.

Jacqueline Aguilar is a multimedia journalist at KGUN 9. Born and raised in Yuma, AZ., she is no stranger to the unforgiving Arizona heat. Now this U of A wildcat is excited to be back in Tucson and is looking forward to involving herself in the community. Share your story ideas with Jacqueline by emailing or connecting on Facebook, Instagram or X.