Superintendent: “Business as usual” in Sinclairville schools as search for escaped suspect continues

SINCLAIRVILLE, N.Y. (WIVB) – People were waking up Wednesdday to day two of a manhunt for a suspect who escaped custody in Chautaqua County, and local families with children were preparing for a normal day of school.

Both the Sinclairville Elementary and Middle/High School buildings had been put on lockout Tuesday as the search for Jacob Raynor unfolded.

The Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office says Raynor, 34, escaped from custody around 11:30 a.m. Tuesday. He was in court in the town of Charlotte for arraignment on a felony drug charge in connection to a meth production investigation. The Sheriff’s office says he was able to get away from a deputy, and, while still wearing handcuffs, ran away from the area.

The court is only about a mile away from the Sinclairville schools, which were placed on lockout as a precaution. The schools received the all clear from the Sheriff’s Office to dismiss at normal times and hold regularly scheduled after school activities Tuesday afternoon.

Cassadaga Valley Superintendent Chuck Leichner told News 4 the communication from the Sheriff’s Office to the school district has been great. “I spoke with Sheriff Gerace last night personally and again this morning we’ve heard from the sheriff’s department, so they’ve reached out to us, they’ve been very helpful and cooperative and we certainly appreciate their support,” he said on Wednesday morning, ahead of the start of the new school day.

Leichner said he was told by the Sheriff’s Office that things could be back to business as usual in the school buildings on Wednesday, even as the search continues. The schools have policies and procedures in place to handle a wide variety of circumstances, although the superintendent says something like this situation is rare.

“There are things that happen where we have to react for a brief period of time. Typically, it doesn’t roll over into two or three days so we’re hoping that this search by the law enforcement agencies ends quickly, because then we can just redirect our focus, because this is a distraction,” he said.

Leichner told News 4 the focus in the classrooms Wednesday will be on the normal curriculum, not on what sheriff’s deputies are doing around the area to find Raynor. But, he said, the district’s policy is to explain the situation honestly and directly with students.

“They’re very media savvy,” Leichner explained. “Even our elementary kids, I’m sure, have been watching the news and the Internet. It’s all over and so we’re just honest with them, that we’re being careful that our buildings are secure, we’re following all of the safety procedures that we already have in place, but we’re just going to have a regular pickup, drop off and after school day, and in the middle of the day we’re going to learn.”

Parents who were dropping their kids off at Sinclairville Elementary Wednesday morning told News 4 they’ve appreciated how the schools have handled the situation. “They seem like they’re doing a wonderful job right now so I trust them that they’re keeping my daughter who’s only in the first grade very safe,” said one parent, Chivon Weaver.

“They let everybody know what’s going on so we’re prepared for the day and we’re prepared at the end of the day, so you kind of trust that they know what they’re doing,” agreed another parent, Larry Petry.

Raynor is not considered armed or dangerous.

Anyone with information about his whereabouts is urged to call 9-1-1.

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