Improvements at Avenal Elementary School

August 11, 2008 8:24:04 PM PDT
The first day of school is just around the corner for many here in the Central Valley. For one South Valley school, it's taken more than a month of clean up to get things back in order after vandals destroyed most of the classrooms.Custodial crews and teachers are in clean-up mode at Avenal Elementary School. This sign in front of the school says it all, just two more days until school starts and hundreds of children fill the halls. Staff there says they're ready.

Crayons and pencils have been placed on each desk, school books are waiting to be shelved and the freshly waxed floors sparkle in the hallway. It's hard to tell the classrooms at Avenal Elementary School used to be completely destroyed. A month and a half ago, police say five children ages 10-12 broke into the school and trashed almost every single classroom. Computers were smashed, paint and glue was splashed on the walls and floors.

Principal Rosemary Spencer says, "When I saw it for myself it was heart-wrenching to think of all that damage." Teacher Robin Bancroft says "They broke the lock off my closet door. I had it locked and they busted through the window." Another teacher, Chris Nugent, recalls the damage to his classroom. Nugent says, "They took my shelf and just pulled the whole thing over so all of my materials were on the floor."

Nugent also lost $1,500 of his personal items that he contributed to the classroom, like a stereo which was smashed with a hammer by the vandals. Crews have been working all summer to get things back in order. New linoleum covers where the suspects started a fire and door windows that were smashed-in have been restored. There are still some computers and televisions that haven't been replaced but teachers are making adjustments. The principal says it was a community-wide effort to put the school back together.

Principal Spencer says, "High school students, teachers, community members and extra crew members came out to clean up and they were just scrubbing and working so hard and with a happy spirit and it made me almost cry." Robin Bancroft says, "We know who we are and that we're good people and good students and that we want to learn and we love our school."

The five children accused of vandalizing the school actually went to school here. They are facing felony charges. The mother of two of the boys who's accused of helping wipe fingerprints off a stolen laptop will be in court Tuesday for her pretrial.

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