Two armed robberies in the downtown area early Thursday, February 6, and a suspect still at large, led to lockdowns at both the University of Montana and several public schools administrated by Missoula School District One.

UM Vice President for Integrated Communications Peggy Kuhr said that once the first robbery was reported, a text message was sent out to all students and personnel to stay on campus and away from the footbridge leading from East Broadway onto the UM campus.

"We decided to have people. as we say, shelter in place," Kuhr said. "Then, within a half-hour we initiated a formal lockdown, which allowed us to either automatically lock a number of buildings, or to go around to other buildings and lock them by hand."

Kuhr said once the students were locked in, they quickly adapted to the situation.

"It lasted for about a couple of hours, so people were pretty much in place wherever they were," Kuhr said. "I've talked to some students who were playing charades, while others were working on homework, and we also had a number of students right here in Main Hall."

The lockdown at the University of Montana was called off at 1:10 p.m.

Missoula County Public Schools Director of Communications Hatton Littman said Hellgate High School was the first building to be affected by the law enforcement situation.

"We received the information from the Missoula Police Department about a robbery that happened at the Motel 6," Littman said. "At that time, we were advised to place Hellgate High School on 'lock-in' status. That means that we have our perimeter doors locked and we have staff members stationed at those doors, but it's still business as usual."

Littman said the district then received word of further criminal activity.

"We then received word that the Taco Bell restaurant near the Motel 6 had also been robbed, and the suspect was at large within the community, so we made the decision to put other schools in that vicinity on lock-in status," Littman said. "That included Seninel High School, our business and administration buildings, as well as Washington Middle School, Paxson Elementary, Lewis and Clark, Willard Alternative School, Rattlesnake Elementary, and eventually Lowell Elementary School, also."

Littman said MCPS has an emergency contact system to inform parents of actions taken to protect students at the public schools.

"We actually have an emergency contact system," Littman said. "Parents were notified by the schools via that system. When we use the system, it both emails and calls the parents to give them the information. We released the 'lock-in' status at all the schools at about 1 p.m."

Littman said she thought the entire situation was handled well by all school staff who kept the students calm, and continued with the normal school day.

Missoula County Public Schools Director of Communications Hatton Littman