According to Andy True, assistant superintendent at Kingsport City Schools, an employee at Jefferson spotted the bear across the street from the school shortly before noon. As a precaution, students stayed indoors during the afternoon and parents were alerted of the sighting.
School dismissed at its normal time and administrators and an officer with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency were on site to make sure the bear didn’t return to school property.
“I was inside eating my lunch and heard the fire alarm. We came out like a normal fire drill, and across the street we saw a bear running,” said Patricia Dygert, who teaches art at Jefferson. “It was in the alley across the street and some students and teachers saw it from the playground.”
Several teachers and employees snapped pictures of the bear and nicknamed it, of course, Jefferson.
Todd Weaver, a TWRA officer, responded to the call mainly because the animal was in such close proximity to Jefferson. Initially, Weaver said, he couldn’t find the bear, but soon afterwards, a gentlemen pointed out that it was halfway down a nearby alley, up in a maple tree.
“I stayed with it for about an hour, trying to get people to stay away from it so it would come down,” Weaver said. “Until you go away, it’s not going to come down.”
After everyone left, the bear did descend from the tree and began walking toward Jefferson. Weaver and school officials, in their vehicles, chased the bear around the playground and into the woods behind the school.
Best guess, Weaver said, the bear probably made its way to the school via the Kingsport Greenbelt.
“It knew exactly the way to come. It’s a safe haven. There’s fruit trees, nuts and plenty of carrion,” Weaver said. “And we’re seeing a lot of bears in residential communities. Trash cans, pet food, grills and smokers. It’s just a free, easy meal for them.”