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Vandals strike at Hillcrest

Oak Harbor School District officials fear that the recent rash of vandalism at local schools may be escalating.

In the sixth incident of vandalism in four weeks, a person, or persons, smashed through a window at Hillcrest Elementary and attempted to set the sprinkler system off Thursday night, said Bruce Worley, Oak Harbor School District’s executive director for operations.

“They crawled in a classroom and set a piece of paper on fire in an attempt to set sprinkler head off,” Worley said.

The vandals did not succeed in their mission, however, and dropped the paper before the sprinklers could discharge. They were able to steal candy and food from the classroom though, Worley said.

Police have little to go on, Oak Harbor Police Capt. Rick Wallace said. They have a few leads to work with, but that is all, he said.

“We have contacted some individuals, but they’re not suspects,” Wallace said.

Detectives on the case are not sure what the intent of the burnt paper was, Wallace added. No scorching was found on the carpet and no smoke damage was seen around the sprinkler head.

“There was no sign of (burning the sprinkler), what they have is a burnt piece of paper,” Wallace said. “There was no obvious sign of charring or smoking on the sprinkler head, but what other reason would they have for doing that?”

This follows a string of vandalism at Broad View Elementary and the district’s two middle schools. At Broad View, seven windows were smashed and a tree was set ablaze.

Broad View Principal Joyce Swanson said she did not even have the words to describe how she felt when she heard her school had been intentionally damaged.

“It’s just very difficult for me to understand the psychology behind being very destructive,” she said. “I just don’t understand recreational destruction.”

She said she made an announcement Monday to the approximately 450 students about the destruction. She said she also considering sending a letter to parents.

“It’s not just the parents that need to know, it’s the community,” Swanson said. “The community has put a lot of tax dollars into the school.”

The building where the windows were broken had been remodeled just two years ago.

So far, the repair bill is approaching $5,000, Worley said.

“Five thousand dollars seems like a small price to pay to catch these kids before they do something real serious,” he said.

No incidents have been reported since Thursday night, but Worley said the district is considering purchasing a portable surveillance system to monitor school grounds during the hours that no security patrol is available.

“In the past, this hasn’t been a problem, we’ve had plenty of watchful eyes,” he said.

Swanson said she has already had several students approach her with information about the incidents.

“These kids love their school,” she said.

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