Constant vandalism at Laurel Ledge Elementary School has the Board of Education seeking a heightened police presence at the Beacon Falls school and neighborhood awareness of the issue.
“It’s been persistent for quite a while,” said Superintendent of Schools James Agostine about the vandalism at the school.
One of most frequent targets of vandals has been the playscape in the back field, which has been broken on occasion and used as a canvas for graffiti. Recently, vandals have also climbed onto the school and ripped shingles off of the roof according to school officials.
Agostine said the district has been repairing and cleaning what it can following the incidents of vandalism, but didn’t have specific details on monetary costs of the vandalism.
Vandalism at Laurel Ledge has been the subject of conversations at recent school board meetings.
Business Manager Hugh Potter told the board at its Dec. 21 meeting that officials have taken and are planning to take steps to try to curb the vandalism. He said items that can be used to climb onto the roof have been removed. Officials are looking into putting in a flood light to illuminate the back field at night, and plan to put up more no trespassing signs Potter added
Agostine added, in a subsequent interview, officials have begun locking the easy access gate to the back field at night. However, the fence doesn’t completely encompass the field, he said, leaving areas where vandals can enter.
Along with the steps taken by the district, Potter told the board he sat down with state police to discuss the matter and police will increase their patrols of the area surrounding the school.
Board member Robert Hiscox said he wanted it known that police have the support of the board to arrest anyone caught on the property after hours and cited for trespassing.
“We’re not out to punish kids for being kids,” Hiscox said. However, he added, the vandals must know what they’re doing is wrong.
If the damage to the playscape continues, Hiscox said the board could end up closing it down.
“Then nobody wins,” he said.
Hiscox added that the board must be wary of the potential liability or a lawsuit the board could face if someone is hurt on school property.
“We need to protect taxpayers in the region from something like that,” he said.
Along with talking to police, board member Sheryl Feducia felt the board should reach out to neighbors of the school and make them aware of what is going on.
Feducia felt if the neighbors knew about the problem, they might be more observant and notice if something out of place is occurring at the school.
“Maybe they’ll take the initiative to pick up the phone and call police,” Feducia said.