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UPDATE: Social media threats prompt extra police presence at Mini-Cassia, Jerome schools

BURLEY — Online threats prompted an increased law enforcement presence Tuesday at a few Magic Valley school campuses.

At Cassia County and Minidoka County schools, some students saw school shooting threats on social media Monday night. In Jerome, a student was reportedly threatened via Instagram.

Cassia County Sheriff‘s officials think the message that was given to them by a Burley High School parent may have originated from an Xbox video game system in Texas.

“There are no lockdowns at the schools, and the schools are safe,” said district spokeswoman Debbie Critchfield. “We haven’t been advised by law enforcement to put any school in lockdown.”

The Jerome Police Department received several phone calls Tuesday morning about rumors circulating of a shooting at Jerome High School. Police Chief Dan Hall said no threats were made toward the school, and there’s no credible or imminent danger.

Over the weekend, Jerome police received a report of a person who received threats via Instagram, Hall said. As a precaution, extra police officers are expected to patrol near near Jerome High School for the next few days.

Police received information of an individual student who received threats from another student, Jerome School District Superintendent Dale Layne said, adding it may have been an ex-boyfriend situation.

Everyone is on high alert and classroom doors are locked, Layne said, but classes are proceeding as normal.

Extra adults are outside the school building when students are walking to outdoor classes like the agriculture building. Layne said the Jerome High School has provided information to parents.

The Twin Falls School District hasn’t received any reports of online threats, district spokeswoman Eva Craner said. There wasn’t school Monday for President’s Day and students were off again Tuesday due to a teacher workday.

In Cassia County, the message a Burley High School student saw on social media did not mention a specific school, Critchfield said.

Cassia County Sheriff Jay Heward said the message read, “I’m not playing I’m actually going to shoot up the school so don’t come Monday or Tuesday.”

“It was a random threat, and it didn’t originate from here,” Heward said. “We’re not sure where it came from, but we believe it may have been from an Xbox in Texas.”

Heward said they believe it may have come from Texas because officers spoke with a student who was playing a game online with people from Texas.

The sheriff’s office will have deputies at Burley High School today.

Critchfield said a message about the incident was sent out through the district’s messaging system to parents.

“Since the Florida shooting we have upped our presence at the schools but we have officers present at the schools every day,” Heward said.

Minidoka County School Superintendent Ken Cox said Minidoka County law enforcement will also be at Minico High School and do periodic checks with the other schools in the county.

Cox said he saw a photograph of the message that essentially referenced the Florida school shooting and showed a picture of a person in a ski mask with an assault rifle.

“In my opinion, assault rifles are not used for hunting,” Cox said. “I know that’s an unpopular opinion in Idaho.”

Cox said they will have officers at the schools because students don’t always know the threat is not credible and they can become afraid, he said.

“We don’t mess around,” he said. “We can’t.”

Twin Falls DACA forum will feature undocumented College of Southern Idaho student

TWIN FALLS — Laura Prado was Jerome High School‘s 2016 valedictorian. Now she’s in college and plans to become a pharmacist.

Although her future seems bright, Prado sees mostly uncertainty ahead.

For five years, Prado, now 20, has been able to work and have a driver’s license under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a federal policy implemented in 2012 that provides undocumented youth relief from deportation.

In September, President Donald Trump announced no new applications will be accepted for DACA, and Congress would have six months to find a more permanent fix. But that hasn’t happened.

Those already enrolled in DACA could seek a two-year renewal for permits expiring before March 5. But after that, the program could be phased out.

When uncertainly arose, Prado talked with an immigration attorney. She wondered if she had any options for a pathway to citizenship or legal residency.

“There really isn’t anything else for me,” she told the Times-News on Monday. “I’m just hoping there is a solution.”


Laura Prado, a College of Southern Idaho student who has DACA status, pauses for a photo Tuesday in Twin Falls.

Prado will be one of the panelists during an Idaho Public Television forum, “DACA and the Magic Valley,” Wednesday night in Twin Falls. The event is free and open to the public.

Idaho Public Television host Marcia Franklin will moderate the discussion at the College of Southern Idaho’s Herrett Center for Arts & Science. In addition to Prado, other panelists will include Rep. Lance Clow, R-Twin Falls, and Cesar Perez, CSI’s associate dean of extended studies.

The event will also include a screening of clips from a PBS documentary, “American Creed,” which airs at 9 p.m. Feb. 27.

“The documentary really focuses on the divides that have shown themselves in America,” said Jeff Tucker, director of content services for Idaho Public Television. It explores how those divides can be lessened and how people can talk with each other, “maybe disagreeing, but seeing what the other side meant.”

To coincide with the “American Creed” documentary airing next week, a handful of television stations across the United States were selected to receive a grant to organize engagement activities. Idaho Public Television was one of them.

Idaho Public Television is holding a few events across the state in partnership with the Idaho Statesman and Boise State University’s Center for Idaho History and Politics. Those included a panel last week about land-use issues, the Twin Falls forum, a statewide writing competition for high school students and an Idaho-produced documentary shown during a civility symposium March 14 at BSU.

Tucker said he hopes Twin Falls forum attendees take away “the understanding that there may be two or more sides to an issue, but some of the concerns are shared by all people. It’s learning to talk to one another. It’s not always agreeing, but seeing what the impediments are, politically or personally.”

CSI officials contacted Prado about being a panelist after she spoke at a DACA rally in September at the Twin Falls County Courthouse.

“I’m kind of just hoping for people to be informed and hopefully change some minds and get some people in support,” Prado said, “and see if that has any impact on the future of DACA.”

Prado is a second-year student at CSI, studying pre-pharmacy. She works at the Walmart pharmacy and recently took a test seeking certification as a pharmacy technician. After one more year at CSI, she hopes to attend Idaho State University’s College of Pharmacy.

As soon as her DACA status expires — she declined to share a specific date with the Times-News — she won’t have a work permit or driver’s license.

“I’m just hoping it doesn’t happen,” she said.

She was 7 years old when her parents brought her across the border into the United States in 2005 and she grew up in Jerome. When DACA was announced in 2012, Prado wasn’t old enough to apply. During her freshman year of high school, she watched as her friends applied for driver’s education.

“It was kind of upsetting I couldn’t do that,” she said. But the main reason she wanted to apply for DACA was to get a job.

Prado turned in her DACA application as soon as she turned 15 — the minimum age for applicants — and was granted status in 2013. It allowed her to get a driver’s license and work permit.

“That was the main reason was just to work here legally and to provide for myself and my future,” she said.

While still in high school, Prado spent a year looking for a job, but said no one wanted to hire her because she was too young. Her junior year of high school, she found a job as a cashier at Walmart.

At Jerome High School, she was a member of National Honor Society and the school’s Latinos in Action chapter, which did community service such as tutoring at elementary schools and volunteering as an interpreter at parent-teacher conferences.

After graduating as a Jerome High valedictorian, she enrolled at CSI to further her education. And despite what happens with her legal status in the United States, she wants to find a way to finish her studies.


Jerome High School is pictured in August 2016.


Canyon Ridge juniors Abdelgadir Mohamed, left, and Sagar Bhattarai celebrate after Bhattarai scores the first goal of the game against the Twin Falls Bruins on Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2016, at Canyon Ridge High School in Twin Falls.

4:30 p.m. UPDATE: Olive Garden, Hobby Lobby coming to Twin Falls mall

TWIN FALLS — Woodbury Corp. has announced both Hobby Lobby and Olive Garden are coming to the Magic Valley Mall — and will likely open by fall.

This will be the first time either business has been in Twin Falls, but there has been a lot of local hype about them — particularly after Olive Garden confirmed in October that it was considering the city for a potential location. Woodbury Corp. also hinted at pending negotiations with the restaurant earlier this month.

The mall’s developer announced on Tuesday that Olive Garden would build a restaurant at Locust Street and Pole Line Road, just south of Sears. Hobby Lobby, meanwhile, will take over the entire Macy’s space inside the mall.

“It is very exciting to be introducing these two businesses to the Twin Falls community,” Randy Woodbury, president of Woodbury Corp., said in a statement. “Hobby Lobby offers people a great opportunity to explore their creative passions. And for the past 20 years, local residents have routinely put Olive Garden at the top of the list of most-desired businesses, so we know they’ll be thrilled to have both of these businesses finally be so close to home.”

Macy’s officially closes March 31, a Woodbury Corp. spokeswoman said. It’ll be a quick turnaround for such a large space.

“What it really says is retailers find the Magic Valley and the Magic Valley Mall an attractive place to be,” Woodbury Corp. Regional Manager Brent White told the Times-News in a phone interview Tuesday. “That’s why it happened very quickly.”

Woodbury Corp. is a development and real estate management company based in Salt Lake City. It manages the Magic Valley Mall, as well as Canyon Park West and Canyon Park East shopping centers.

White said both Hobby Lobby and Olive Garden are far along in the design process, and he expects them to submit building permits within the next few weeks.

Olive Garden is a casual dining restaurant chain specializing in Italian-American cuisine. Its parent company, Darden Restaurants, is the world’s largest full-service restaurant company.

An Olive Garden spokeswoman confirmed the company has signed a lease with the developer, but was still working on permitting details. On average, each new restaurant brings about 150 new jobs.

Once completed, the Twin Falls Olive Garden will be approximately 7,000 square feet, Woodbury Corp. stated.

“We’re really excited about Olive Garden,” White said. “Many stars needed to align — and they have. They have waited for exactly the right time and location.”

His company has approached the restaurant chain multiple times in the past, he said, but Twin Falls competed on a worldwide market.

Hobby Lobby is the world’s largest privately-owned arts and crafts retailer. It has more than 800 stores across the U.S. with 32,000 employees, according to the company’s website.

The approximately 60,000-square-foot Hobby Lobby at the Magic Valley Mall will offer more than 70,000 crafting and home decor products.

“Hobby Lobby is always looking for new locations to better serve our customers,” Bob Miller, communications coordinator for Hobby Lobby said in a statement. “With the positive response we’ve received in our four Idaho stores, we believe this will be an excellent location. We look forward to being a part of the community and helping our Twin Falls customers live a creative life.”

White said Hobby Lobby has been negotiating for different Twin Falls locations over a decade.

Tuesday’s announcement was welcome news for one of Twin Falls’ prime retail locations along the canyon rim. Earlier this year, Magic Valley Mall shoppers were shocked by the news that not only Macy’s, but Sears, would be closing. Sears’ closure is expected in early April.

But mall representatives have remained positive on the property’s future.

“This was our first opportunity in 30 years at those locations to give our market what it wants now,” White said.

Sears and Macy’s have been at the mall since the mid-1980s. But White said it’s the nature of retail to change to meet consumer interests.

The mall earlier this month got a new development agreement with the city to allow for residential and other outright permitted uses in the future.

In fact, it was that agreement that was critical to getting Olive Garden, White said, allowing for different setbacks than before and removing the requirement for a special use permit for alcohol consumption on-site.

Meanwhile, Old Navy closed at the end of January at the Canyon Park East shopping center. The city has issued building permits for a HomeGoods store to remodel the space. HomeGoods is owned by the same company as T.J. Maxx.

Other big announcements Woodbury Corp. made in recent months included the opening of Blaze Pizza and the construction of a Habit Burger Grill and a Sports Clips at Canyon Park West.

Woodbury Corp. is negotiating for a potential retail or entertainment tenant in the Sears building. But White says there’s more to come over the next decade.

“Our industry has to adapt rapidly.”