Bus vandalism: families fend for themselves
Online exclusive ~ MapleLine Magazine
Story and photos by Mary P. Brooke | December 11, 2009 (first posting 10 am; last update 2:25 pm)
Nine school buses were vandalized overnight within the School District 62's (SD62) secured parking depot in Sooke. Deliberate entry to the parking lot (situated between Journey Middle School and Poirier Elementary) was likely achieved with cable cutters that allowed one or more persons to remove a significant portion of the chain link fence and thereby gain access through a large hole in the fence.
Doors and windows were smashed in the majority of the buses on the lot, making them unavailable for service this morning. Families needed to make other arrangements for delivering their children to schools in Sooke this morning (see Sooke morning bus route). The Sooke Friday afternoon bus route is likely back on schedule, as some additional buses will be brought from Victoria to provide regular service within the fleet.
"Our staff came in this morning to repair the buses. We have glass in stock. We also called in the First Response glass repair company from Victoria to replace the doors and windows -- they're the best," said Earl Ross, Transportation Foreman, SD62. According to Ross, the vandalism was reported early this morning -- probably around 6 a.m. -- by a carpenter on the early shift at the nearby SD62 grounds department.
Ross outlined that the overnight vandalism resulted in smashed windows and doors. He said that flare kits, safety equipment and fire extinguishers were now missing from the targeted buses. In one bus there remained fire extinguisher foam. In other buses there was still much glass to be cleaned up at 9:30 a.m., but most of the doors had been quickly replaced by that time, in SD62's effort to restore bus service for the regular early Friday dismissal time of 1:45 p.m. at Journey (first school on the route). Seven of the buses will be restored, and with the two additional buses being brought in from Victoria, service should be back to normal.
"It's going to cost about $500 per bus to repair this damage, times nine buses," Ross estimated. "Similar things have happened in previous years, where rocks have been thrown over the fence and damaged windows or like at Belmont High where homeless people have broken in to sleep in the buses," he said, but indicated that this intrusion onto SD62 property was more deliberate and seemingly related to the removal of equipment from the buses. In addition to Ross, the facilities supervisor was also taking part in the assessment and cleanup.
"This is the biggest one we've had in a long time," said SD62 Superintendent Jim Cambridge who has been with SD62 for six years. The head administrator said this case was obviously "planned and deliberate". "I was impressed with the crew. Everybody was out there pitching in sweeping glass away. They did really good work -- there were SD62 staff and also some glass cutters brought in to help us. It was all directed and managed by our staff," Cambridge said.
"My biggest concern was that we potentially had kids sitting at the side of the roads. A few cases like that occurred, but it was not to as great an extent as it might have been," Cambridge explained.
Cambridge first heard of the damage around 6:30 a.m. Unlike with weather-related scenarios, there was no warning about this. Cambridge contacted the principals of the six area schools (four elementary schools, Journey Middle School and Edward Milne Secondary School) to advise them to call parents and PAC representatives, to let parents know that alternative transportation to school would be required this morning.
"We do have prevention, including an alarm system, in place, and security in the yard. But if someone's intent to do the damage they can do it. Partly it's location; it's a fairly isolated location," said Cambridge, who arrived at the site around 9 a.m. to assess the damage.
Update 2 pm: Bus service was indeed restored. However, the after-school pickup at Journey Middle School was exceptionally busy at 1:45 p.m., with more than the usual number of cars and parents there to pick up children. The congested parking lot produced at least one minor potential fender-bender, with no damage. MM
This article is Copyright 2009 Brookeline Publishing House Inc. All rights reserved.
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