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Arson claims childcare centre’s minibus

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Callous act: the Happy Valley Child Care Centre minibus was set on fire over the weekend(Photograph supplied)

A suspected arsonist was branded “deplorable and shameful” yesterday after fire wrecked a school minibus that transported children to swimming and gymnastics.

The Parents Teachers Association of Happy Valley Child Care Centre condemned the incident and appealed to the Bermuda public to provide authorities with information in the hope they can stop the same thing happening again.

Camille Edness, the PTA president, described the act as “totally unacceptable, reckless and irresponsible”.

She said: “It saddens me to know that there are people in our community who don’t value the education and wellbeing of our children. To purposely damage school property is deplorable and shameful.”

The centre offers full-time childcare for infants and preschoolers aged from three months to four years, at a price the PTA describes as cost effective. The PTA said children represent a cross-section of the community, with 60 per cent of the intake classed as at risk, or coming from referrals by the Department of Child and Family Services, the Child Development Programme, Teen Services and the Department of Health.

Their bus was a year old and was used to deliver children to outside activities, including swimming and water safety with Aquamania, gymnastics and Kinetix, which provides yoga and mindfulness sessions for schools. The children take part in a number of activities every week but the PTA said that since the bus was damaged on Sunday, plans were “thrown into disarray”.

Ms Edness said the school “scrambled” to secure alternative transport for a fundraising event on Thursday, as well as for swimming lessons this month and the start of the preschool summer programme.

She thanked Aquamania for temporarily helping to get 26 children to swimming lessons this week.

Ms Edness said: “This past weekend, we celebrated Bermuda heroes.

“If anyone knows something, be a Happy Valley hero and say something, by contacting the Bermuda Police Service, or the confidential and anonymous Crime Stoppers hotline or website with any information.

“Our teachers, parents, and most of all children, deserve better.

“The person who did this must be caught before it’s another bus for our seniors or someone’s house or property.”

Police said this week that inquiries were under way into the incident, which was believed to have happened at about 3.30am.

A spokesman said that the fire was understood to have burnt itself out several hours before the damaged minibus was found.

He added yesterday: “The Bermuda Police Service, in conjunction with the Bermuda Fire and Rescue Service, continue inquiries regarding the suspected arson of a Happy Valley Child Care Centre minibus.”

It was understood CCTV cameras at the school captured a person coming onto the property and setting the bus alight.

An earlier attempt to set the vehicle on fire was also thought to have happened in February when it was left with minor damage. Andalyn Swan, a Happy Valley Child Care Centre co-ordinator, said: “The minibus is an essential component of the programme that we offer here.

“It allows us to transport children to various educational opportunities and opens them up to new experiences.

“It will be a struggle to make things work without the minibus.”

Anyone with information should call Sergeant Caleb Jn Pierre on 717-2368 or e-mail cjnpierre@bps.bm. The confidential Crime Stoppers number is 800-8477. For information on how to donate funds to Happy Valley Child Care PTA, which is a registered Bermuda charity, email hvchildcarepta@gmail.com

Callous act: the interior of the Happy Valley Child Care Centre minibus which was set on fire over the weekend (Photograph supplied)