Vandals strike while school's out

Manawatu schools hit by troublemakers during the summer holidays are investing tens of thousands of dollars to thwart vandalism.

Schools in Palmerston North, Feilding, Ashhurst, Marton and Dannevirke reported various degrees of vandalism, including smashed windows, graffiti-marked walls and stolen computers, during the summer break.

With the academic year back in full swing this week, teachers, principals and caretakers have been cleaning up the aftermath of vandals' visits.

Ashhurst School was the latest to be set upon. During the past four weeks the same black graffiti has reappeared, with more markings during the weekends.

Principal Nick Reed said it was a waste of time, money and effort for the school's caretaker to clean and fix.

"There's someone around the community who continues to put their tag up, they're playing games.

"It irks you really that people have done that and it's a pain with the time involved and from a labour point of view."

Children using the school outside of hours were becoming more conscious of how they treated property, said Ashhurst Senior Constable Mark Glentworth.

But the summer holidays were always a tricky time of year, with schools more vulnerable due to being vacant.

Roslyn School in Palmerston North was also targeted by vandals, who broke several windows during the break.

An attempted break-in was foiled at St Peter's College when someone tried to sneak into school buildings but the alarm was activated, which sent the would-be thieves fleeing empty-handed, principal David Olivier said.

Dannevirke High School was also tagged a few times and Mana Tamariki, in Palmerston North, had cabbages crushed in its vegetable patch and in-ground feature lights shattered.

At the end of last year, windows were smashed at Manchester Street School in Feilding, and St Matthew's Catholic School in Marton had four computers stolen from a classroom, as well as damaged windows.

With the amount of electronic equipment, including laptops, tablets and televisions, used in classrooms, a number of schools are now taking stronger security measures.

Among those is West End School, which enlisted the services of a security company to help keep a watchful eye on school grounds.

Principal Gary Punler said there had been no problems in about three years since the school invested more than $50,000 into upping security systems.

West End has multiple movement sensors, the entire school is under CCTV surveillance and there are alarm systems in place.

Most schools also have SelectaDNA kits, which help them to invisibly mark their property to help it be traced if stolen.

Manawatu Standard