Schools across the district may be letting out for summer this month, but just because the students are on vacation, doesn’t mean vandals will be.
Local schools often find themselves under attack during the summer months, and School District No. 42 is asking the public to be on the look-out for mischievous miscreants and help minimize their mess.
“The public are our eyes and ears,” says school trustee Kathie Ward, chair of the district’s anti-vandalism committee.
The district is employing high tech solutions like metal rolling shutters to protect their windows, as well as video surveillance, motion detectors, automated sprinkler systems, and the Mosquito high-frequency teen deterrent – a device that emits an obnoxious high-pitched noise audible only to young people.
While all of these methods have been effective in reducing vandalism, they are also very expensive, Ward notes. Metal rolling shutters can cost $1,000 per horizontal metre, and a single Mosquito unit can run $900 per unit, plus installation.
Schools will also be boarding up their windows, and security patrols will be stepped up, but often the most effective form of vandalism prevention is the most obvious.
“If you drive by a school, or if you’re out walking your pet and you see something, call the vandalism hotline,” said Ward.
The hotline operates around the clock and forwards reports of vandalism to the district’s security firm or the RCMP so they can respond.
Vandalism numbers have been dropping of late, and Ward hopes that encouraging trend continues.
From the 2003/04 to 2007/08 school year, annual incidents of vandalism rose from 778 to 1,248, respectively.
In 2008/09, that number dropped to 1,116, and Ward is hoping when the 2009/10 numbers are calculated at the end of June, the district will see another decrease.
As of May 31, the district had just 889 incidents so far this year.
However, vandalism is still costing the school district more than $600,000 annually, said Ward, and that’s money that could be better spent elsewhere.
“It’s money that’s coming out of the classroom,” said Ward.
“That’s the equivalent of eight, maybe 10 teachers.”
Ward said vandals generally strike late at night, or on weekends, and that’s when the district needs the public to be aware.
“A lot more schools are engaging the community to bring awareness to the problem,” said Ward. “But we need citizens to step up to the plate.”