By Janet Chen, Alanna Greene and Ariel Moyal
On the night of Friday, Feb. 13, a group of people broke into Bay Farm Elementary School and vandalized outside and classroom property. The incident has been extremely upsetting to Bay Farm teachers, students and parents. In addition to the overall school property damage, vandals broke into a kindergarten classroom. Responders to the incident found shattered windows, overturned tables, and spray paint lining the walls. Student projects usually stationed on the shelves and walls around the room were found littering the floor.
The maintenance operations department found the school in this condition that same night, and responded accordingly, sweeping up the trash on the ground, boarding the windows and returning furniture back to their original places.
Kindergarten teacher Moira Hester arrived at school after the long weekend and found that the maintenance crew had almost completely tidied up her classroom, but “things were still tossed around.” Though she was hesitant to discuss the vandalism incident, worrying that it would “put fear in [the students],” she approached the conversation by emphasizing that “sometimes people make bad choices, and the choices you make affect others.”
Soon before the incident, Hester’s students celebrated 100 days of school, and one student had collected 100 marbles which were tossed out the window on the night of the vandalism. A Bay Farm community member later walked on campus, noticed the dispersed marbles on the asphalt, and collected as many as he could to return to the Bay Farm administration.
“The project came back to my student, but not as he expected it,” Hester said. “It was heartbreaking; he was devastated to see his project in that state.” However, the other students in the class gathered around him and tried to make him feel better. “That was the most positive part of it,” Hester said.
Later on, word had spread about the destroyed marble project, and another Alameda community member dropped off a bag of about 300 marbles for the student. “With the generosity of the community, we tried to turn this into a positive learning experience,” Hester said.
When asked what steps should be taken to prevent another act of vandalism like this, Hester suggested ramping up security and surveillance around the school. “There have been talks about having cameras on campus and taking measures to close our campus more. Adding different sensors around the school would take away from the beauty of the school, but it is an important thing to do.”
Bay Farm’s PTA president, Jennifer Williams, is in concurrence, “ I emailed the superintendent Sean McPhetridge and the facilities manager, Robby Lyng, about installing motion-sensored lights that would hopefully deter people from loitering on campus,” she said. “From the PTA perspective we are re-starting a conversation at our next meeting about the campus security. We funded cameras for the school, but they weren’t on the night of the incident because they have to be manned by volunteers,” Williams said.
Williams also had the idea to partner with Bay Farm security, a private company, to keep the campus safe at night. “Their contract doesn’t currently cover the school so they can’t go on campus,” she explained. She would also like to see the installation of “motion-sensored lights that would hopefully deter people from loitering on campus.”
Barbara Freitas has seen many incidents of vandalism at Bay Farm as a former long-time teacher and current principal. “Well we’ve been upset and over the years, we’ve had issues with tagging and kids drinking but having kids trash a classroom was pretty shocking,” said Freitas. “I know a lot of high school students at the four high schools and it’s upsetting to think it might’ve been students who went to these schools who vandalized the school.”
While Hester feels fortunate that nothing was stolen and that no one was harmed, she would want an apology for her students if the offenders are found. “Really, it’s not for me, but for my students,” Hester said. “That’s what I’d want.”