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Focus on security after school break-ins

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Staff at eight schools have been picking up the pieces and trying to figure out how their security can be improved in light of numerous break-ins over the past month.

According to police there has been a spate of 11 incidences across primary, middle and senior high schools since January 16 with cash and electronic items taken in some cases.

Special assemblies have been held at some schools to explain the situation to the children while parents and teachers have donated time and effort to try to clean up and secure the schools as a temporary measure.

Ministry of Works and Engineering staff have made some visits to make repairs while the Ministry of Education has requested damage reports from each of the schools.

The schools targeted were: CedarBridge Academy, Clearwater Middle School, Dame Marjorie Bean Hope Academy, Elliot Primary School, Mount Saint Agnes Academy, Prospect Primary, Victor Scott Primary School and West Pembroke Primary School.

West Pembroke held an emergency meeting for teachers on Sunday evening. Doors and windows had been broken, filing cabinets and desks broken into as well as some funds taken. Teachers and some parents helped to clean up the mess before the children arrived back on Monday.

Principal Opal Wilson told The Royal Gazette: “An assembly was held and we reassured the students that everything is fine and that they should feel safe. We are having little conversations like that. I would like to thank the teachers — they came in Sunday evening and you would not have known, except for the obvious damages, that anything went awry over the weekend and they were ready to receive the children on Monday morning. We held an emergency meeting on Sunday evening and following the meeting they went and did what they do best.”

PTA president at the school Danielle Riviere said that the PTA executive was organising a meeting to discuss next steps in terms of security. She told The Royal Gazette: “The PTA is stepping in to go and try to secure windows by putting wood and sticks in them and things of that nature.

“We have been getting things secured internally. The PTA executive is going to sit down and look at what our risks are and evaluate the school to be able to truly understand what needs to happen in terms of more long-term security.

“It should definitely fall with the ministry [of education]. Aside from them asking for a report of the damages, nobody has come to say anything yet. It is their building.”

Elliott School deputy principal Dianne Simmons said there wasn't too much damage at the school — there were broken windows and doors and offices were broken into as well.

“The children were upset — they get excited when they see something broken and they want to talk and tell stories so it has been distracting but we are getting back to normal.

“We don't have any funds at all. We will have to wait to have the damage repaired which will probably take a long time. Works and Engineering have come to put wood up to the office door.”

Victor Scott Principal Stephen Coddington was called out on Sunday after the alarms went off at the school. He said: “They got into the building but they didn't get to what they wanted. We have camera [that filmed] one person with a hoody, a face mask and gloves. They left by the time we got here.”

Mr Coddington said while there was minimal damage, “it just feels violating. Someone has come into your space and it is violating. Schools used to be sacred areas — sacred grounds. They used to be something that was respected because it is the children's safe haven.”

Works and Engineering have already been to the building to work on the minor repairs.

This newspaper reached out to the Ministry of Education, which said it was working on a response to be released later this week.

Crime scene: damage at West Pembroke Primary School following the break-in
Damage to the principal's office door at West Pembroke Primary School following the break-in.

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Published February 15, 2017 at 8:00 am (Updated February 15, 2017 at 6:31 am)

Focus on security after school break-ins

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