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Vandals break into, ransack three schools

Stolen electronics, substantial damage reported in incidents

Posted: Tuesday, November 18, 2008

It was a bad weekend for Juneau schools, and three separate school buildings faced break-ins, with one school receiving substantial damage while thousands of dollars worth of electronics were stolen from another.

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Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire

Juneau Police were unavailable for comment.

Early Monday morning, a fire alarm went off at Riverbend Elementary School, where responding Capital City Fire and Rescue units found vandalism, instead of a fire.

Later Monday morning staff at Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School found at least two classrooms had been entered over the weekend, with nine laptop computers, a projector and a digital camera taken. Preliminary value on the stolen items was $14,000, said DZ principal Barb Mecum.

An attempt was made to force a car through doors at Mendenhall River Community School, but staff there said nothing appeared to be missing.

Riverbend Principal Carmen Katasse said several windows were broken at her school, first to get into the building and then to get into locked classrooms and offices.

No damage estimates were available.

Little was taken at Riverbend, she said, just a camera and some candy.

There was extensive damage, however, with broken glass covering floors and fire extinguisher discharged around the building.

The building's maintenance staff, Steven Bradner and Jorge Cordero, were in the building by 4 a.m. Monday, getting the school ready for the 9 a.m. student arrival.

The police investigation, including fingerprinting, was done quickly so the clean up could begin, she said.

With the assistance of help called in from other schools, there was little impact on the school day, Katasse said.

"They really hustled," she said.

Some of the teachers took the opportunity to talk about vandalism, and some of the kids were dismayed about what had happened, Katasse said.

"They were a little bit upset that someone would do this to their school," she said.

Some of the damage was petty, such as throwing a display skeleton and other items into a fish tank.

"The vandals threw things into the tank, but the fish did not die," she said.

Katasse said she hasn't heard if the police have any suspects, but she's convinced that it was not a school-age child that inflicted the damage.

At the middle school, the break-in was not discovered until mid morning, when nine laptops were found to be missing from the Fast Forward language lab. There, a window had been pried open, Mecum said.

In another classroom a projector used daily by a teacher was also found to be missing.

In both classrooms changes were made to cope with the missing equipment.

"It's very angering to have our resources taken from our kids," she said.

Mecum said she hoped anyone who knew something about who might have committed the burglary would provide that information to the police.

"We really want to reach out to the community and have everybody's help in solving this," she said.

• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com.



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