Vandalism issues persist at Laurel Ledge

BEACON FALLS — Recent acts of vandalism at the playground area at Laurel Ledge Elementary School led school officials to lock the gate to the playground at night and on the weekends, but the Region 16 Board of Education is willing to give it another try.

The Region 16 Board of Education, which oversees public schools in Beacon Falls and Prospect, decided last week to leave the gate open the first two weekends of April and see if any more incidents occur.

The issue has come up at recent board meetings. Board members have said that residents and children in the neighborhood enjoy using the playground and fields at the school, but can’t when the area is locked off.

Vandals have targeted the area in the past. Last fall, the area was vandalized three times over a month. The incidents, which included racial slurs carved into swing seats and a broken slide, led Superintendent of Schools Michael Yamin to lock the gate.

Yamin told the board custodians cleaned a pile of beer cans early last week that was left on the field. Officials believe people jumped a fence that surrounds the back portion of the field, which is bordered by woods, over the weekend of March 9 to hang out and drink on the property.

Yamin recommended keeping the gate locked over weekends and at nights during the weekend.

“I just don’t think we’ve had luck keeping it open,” he said.

As officials discussed how to proceed, board member Erik Dey pointed out that the incidents are happening with the gate locked and unlocked.

Yamin said if officials know drinking is occurring at the property they shouldn’t make it easier for people to access the property by leaving the gate open.

There is a surveillance camera that covers the playground area, but it doesn’t cover the entire property.

Board member David Rybinski said it’s unfortunate that a few bad apples are ruining the opportunity for children in the neighborhood to use the playground and fields.

“It’s a tough call to make,” said Rybinski about leaving the gate open or locking it.

Vandalism at the school on Highland Avenue isn’t a new occurrence.

In late 2011, vandals broke the playscape, used the area as a canvas for graffiti and also climbed onto the school and ripped shingles off of the roof, school officials said at the time.

The incidents prompted then-Superintendent James Agostine to lock the access gate at night. At the time, however, the property wasn’t completed fenced in. The region added a fence around the property as part of security improvements made several years ago.