School District 71 is facing some extra costs due to increased vandalism of late on school properties.
Superintendent Tom Demeo addressed the matter at the Nov. 24 board meeting, saying it has already cost the district about $9,000 for vandalism-related repairs in the 2020/21 school year. He described it as “disheartening” to have to divert money to fix vandalism and graffiti damage that could be allocated to other areas.
The amount is about 50 per cent higher than last year and more than three times the previous year’s amount.
Incidents in the last two months have included broken windows at multiple school buildings and portables, siding damage at two sites, and break-ins and damage to toys at one elementary school.
Demeo said there is also a concern about homeless people sleeping at school sites in Courtenay and by the board office. The district has asked to staff to do morning sweeps for drug paraphernalia and garbage.
“It’s been a bit of an issue for us,” he said.
The district is planning to get some students and parents from Brooklyn Elementary for messaging around the issue. Earlier in the fall, someone stole a large supply of wooden boards from the school.
“We’re just asking everyone to just keep an eye open for any types of activities that are occurring around our buildings,” he said. “We’re just asking everyone to help out and help us put an end to the needless vandalism.”
Trustee Janice Caton asked about the homelessness situation and whether the district has connected with local community resources to see if they can help.
“It’s an ongoing issue that I hate to see expand,” she said.
Demeo said staff are trying to connect with agencies about the matter.
Director of operations Ian Heselgrave said the issue tends to be sporadic, with people moving around rather than staying in one location. He added they contact the RCMP if they have a situation at a site.
“We find it very challenging because we get folks that are trying to get into the nooks and crannies of the schools,” he said.
Demeo emphasized that the vandalism is the primary concern at this time.
A Nov. 25 district news release asked the general community to help keep an eye on school sites to help prevent the rise of vandalism, following a rash of incidents this past month.
“The district is appealing to the community to be extra vigilant and watch for questionable activity on school grounds during off-hours, as well as share in educating others about the impact vandalism has on student learning,” he said in the release.
School District 71 and the Comox Valley RCMP are calling on the public to report any suspicious behaviour atschools in recent weeks.