Security in the Newport and Pittsfield-based school districts was increased after a young man asked about assault rifles in a call to the Palmyra Walmart Thursday and made a comment about “needing it for school” before hanging up the phone, according to school officials.

The caller made no threat to any specific school or district, but police presence at area schools was increased on Friday, the superintendents of both districts said in separate announcements.

The same Walmart got a bomb threat about 2 p.m. today, but police believe it was unrelated to Thursday’s call about the rifle.

School today remained as normal a day as possible, said Dominic DePatsy, superintendent for Pittsfield-based School Administrative District 53.

“Nothing really changed today, there was no direct threat so it was a normal day,” DePatsy said, adding that the district recently reviewed its lock-down procedure. “The only thing that was different was the police would drive around the area of the school a little more frequently, but that was mainly to let the kids know they were safe.”

Pittsfield Police Chief Steven Emery said that other than some additional patrolling in the area, nothing was significantly different from any other day. The areas near the schools are checked about four-to-six times a day anyway, Emery said, and there will be more patrolling in the area for a while.

DePatsy said about 20 percent of students districtwide stayed home from school on Friday.

In Newport-based Regional School Unit 19, Superintendent Greg Potter posted a letter on the district’s website about the incident. The schools initiated a shelter in place process, which includes locking all exterior doors and keeping students inside. Parents were informed that any absences would be excused if they wanted to keep their children home.

“You try to have a normal school day within the school,” Potter said. “The Newport police have been great communicating with us throughout the day.”

Potter said the shelter in place will continue into next week and he doesn’t know when it will be lifted.

“Our current focus is on safety,” he said, adding that anyone with any information about who might have made the call to contact Newport police.

Maine State Police are investigating the origin of the phone call, according to Steve McCausland, spokesman for Maine Department of Public Safety. He said Walmarts in Thomaston and Calais also got bomb threats.

No bomb was found by a search dog from the Penobscot Sheriff’s Department and the store reopened at 4:30 p.m., said Dale Lancaster, deputy chief of the Somerset County Sheriff’s Department.

The investigation into the threats is ongoing.

Jesse Scardina — 861-9239[email protected]Twitter: @jessescardina

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