Shortly after 1:30 p.m. today, the Walton County Sheriff's Office made this post on Facebook:
"If you experience delays at Butler Elementary, the school resource deputy is currently negotiating with a small bear to leave the premises. Thank you for your patience while we make sure your students are safe for release."
FWC spokesman Stan Kirkland told The Sun that when FWC personnel arrived on the scene, they found the bear underneath one of the school buses parked in back of the school. The men have called for a dart gun to put the bear to sleep, so it can be relocated.
A visit to the school by The Sun found a long line of cars and sheriff's deputies onsite directing traffic. Meanwhile, school maintenance personnel were blocking entrance to the back of the school.
The worker said the large black bear was roaming back and forth behind the school and not inside a fenced area.
A representative at the school said students were kept inside the school, and parents were advised to stay in their car as a safety precaution.
"We are safely loading busses one by one," Kim Sincoskie, data control specialist, told The Sun at the time. "The Sheriff's Office and wildlife control are keeping an eye on the bear. And we will get the students out to the cars shortly."
School children began being released to the long line of waiting cars about 2:45 p.m. By that time traffic was backed up all the way to Highway 98.
After students were released, Assistant Principal Meredith Spence told The Sun that when the PE teacher took his last class outside about 1:40 p.m., the bear was spotted at the Dumpster where the day's lunches are trashed. When the bear saw people, it went back into the woods.
Spence said it was a medium to large adult bear. While some said a cub was also spotted, Spence said she was not aware of a second bear.
She did say this is the first time she knows of a bear on school grounds, but school personnel have been on the lookout as there has been talk of seeing one in the vicinity.
She said that the children were brought inside when the bear was spotted and all classes were alerted to close their blinds so that class would not be disrupted. The Sheriff's Office was then called, as well as FWC.
Plans were then put in motion to reroute dismissals so that all would exit from the front of the building where they would be safe.
Spence said dismissal usually takes place at 2:20 p.m. and she was pleased with how smoothly everything went. The pre-K classes, which normally dismiss at 2 p.m., were held in the cafeteria.
Butler Elementary, located on County Road 30A, has an enrollment of 960 students.