Waverly Elementary School in Ellicott City was both put into lockdown status and evacuated early Wednesday morning due to the unrelated threats of bear and fire.
Principal Kathy Jacobs told staff to keep students indoors after receiving calls from parents about a bear sighting in the area at about 8:50 a.m., according to school spokesman John White. That was only a few minutes before the fire alarm went off at around 9 a.m., during student drop off.
White said that students were kept on buses parked close to the school while the fire department cleared the building.
The Fire Department allowed students and staff to return inside the building at approximately 9:45 a.m., White said, and at 10 a.m., police declared the modified lockdown — requiring students and staff to remain indoors — unnecessary because there was no danger from the bear that had been spotted.
Parents were kept abreast of the situation through texts and emails from the school, and advised to find transportation alternatives for those students who normally walk to school.
The morning's events inspired a meme posted on the Western Howard County Shares Facebook page, depicting a photo of a bear with the words, "I pulled the fire alarm."
While black bears are typically found in western Maryland, the Maryland Department of National Resources has confirmed sightings of black bears in Howard and nearby Montgomery and Baltimore counties in recent years. According to the department, sightings peak in late June and early June.