TOWNSEND -- The first day of school always bring surprises but funneling through a temporary security checkpoint in a brand new school is low on the list of probabilities.
Students at North Middlesex Regional High School found just that. A student is alleged to have posted a picture of himself and what appeared to be an AR-15 style rifle with the caption "getting ready for school."
The young man told police it was a joke when he was arrested, but police took no chances. A team from NEMLEC hustled to get an airport-style security checkpoint in place before students arrived on Aug. 30.
Daniel and Rachel King were the first students to arrive at school that morning. They found a teacher trying to get in the building.
When the superintendent let the teacher in, "that's when we sneaked in the building," Daniel said. The junior and his sister Rachel, a senior, didn't get far.
They found a lot of police hard at work and weren't sure what was going on, Rachel said.
Daniel was the first to go through the metal detector, accompanied by Superintendent Joan Landers.
Rachel, in the No. 2 slot, had to explain the contents of her bag. The police saw a bunch of orange dots on the x-ray machine screen.
They were home-made caramels that Rachel made for her friends for the first day of school.
Police screened over 800 students, delaying the start of the day by about 40 minutes.
"While it was an unfortunate situation it was a great way to test all the security," said Rob Templeton. The school committee member was chairman of the School Building Committee, serving as a project manager through years of planning and construction.
One of the biggest security concerns in the old building was the challenge of overseeing the 18 entrances. One main entrance makes it easier to monitor things, Templeton said.
The security system includes cameras and other building options add more safety, he said. Visitors will need to be buzzed in twice, once at the outside door and again after checking in at the office.
Susan Robbins, a school committee member praised everyone involved in a text:
"My thoughts keep coming back to how gracefully our students handled the situation.
"So many individuals are deserving of our gratitude for a smooth opening of school in less than ideal circumstances -- students, staff, administrators, law enforcement personnel and a supportive community.
"We are truly blessed."
The superintendent did not respond to requests for comment.
Pepperell police received a complaint that a post including a picture of rifle and the words "getting ready for school" had been posted on Instagram, They identified the poster as Sanjay Daley, 18.
They found him at home and took him into custody. Police did not find any weapons in the family's apartment.
Daley was arraigned in Ayer District Court that day, charged with a hijack/bomb threat and threatening to commit a crime.
The following day, a young man at Daley's address identified himself as Daley's brother and said his brother and his mother were not home. No one answered a knock on the sliding doors later in the day.
Follow Anne O'Connor on Twitter @a1oconnor.