School vandalism shakes up Kaneohe


POSTED: Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Children as well as faculty and staff are uneasy after vandals shattered windows and light bulbs at Kapunahala Elementary School in Kaneohe over the weekend.

“;I'm just very saddened by this,”; said Principal Joyce Bellino yesterday.

Schools officials believe the vandalism occurred sometime between 6 p.m. Friday and 4 p.m. Saturday.

“;This is the worst that I've seen,”; said Bellino, principal for the past three years. Police are looking into the damage.

Five of the library's tempered-glass windows were damaged. Three were broken when someone apparently threw small concrete bricks used as markers for native Hawaiian plants in an adjacent garden.

A few of the markers were found loosened or yanked from the ground. Nearby, vandals also destroyed fluorescent light bulbs in the school's open-air hallway.

Also, three exterior lights at the “;C”; building were shattered, apparently with one of the metal tent poles from the storage room. It appeared that someone had kicked in the door to the storage room where the tent poles are stored along with incandescent bulbs. Broken light bulbs were found strewn around the grounds.

No equipment or items were stolen. “;It's a senseless act,”; said Bellino. “;It's certainly disrupting the learning environment.”;

School officials had considered a surveillance camera system, but Bellino said costs are too high.

Lead custodian Tillie Mansanas said she arrived at the school at about 4 p.m. Saturday and noticed that an air-conditioning unit at a resource room appeared to be kicked in. She also observed a swastika and the biblical numbers “;666”; spray-painted on one side of the “;A”; building near the kindergartners' playground.

Mansanas, who has worked at the school for almost 20 years, said there was a previous property damage in the early 1990s, when the library windows were also shattered. But like Bellino, Mansanas said the recent extensive damage across school grounds was the worse she has ever seen.

An estimate of the damage was not available, but Mansanas said replacing the tempered-glass library windows alone could run in the thousands of dollars.

Public schools in Windward Oahu and other districts previously had conducted security checks at night, but they were put to a halt in December after the contract ended. Since then, Mansanas said, there has been a rash of vandalism at the school.

Heeia Elementary School, a couple of miles away, also has experienced a surge in vandalism within the last month. “;We've been getting quite a bit of graffiti,”; said Principal Dwight Uetake.

Mansanas hopes there will be some way night security could be renewed at affected schools, saying it served as a deterrent.