Omak school vandalism spurs outpouring of goodwill
Wednesday, April 4, 2012
OMAK — As soon as news of vandalism at the Omak High School was out, Omak School Superintendent Art Himmler began getting calls.
The phone messages were not from people with information about Thursday night’s break-in that resulted in an estimated $200,000 in damages and losses. These businesses, community members and students were calling to offer help repairing the damage.
Nearly 70 panes of glass were broken, along with computer monitors and vending machines, and many laptops were taken. Omak Police Detective Jeff Koplin said there are no suspects yet, but police are following several leads.
Himmler said Home Depot called him almost immediately to offer a clean-up crew, along with materials and supplies to fix the mess. Walmart and the Glass Company in Omak also offered supplies and services.
“And I got all kinds of other calls from people asking how they can help,” Himmler said. “The students — they want to be part of restoring their high school. And it’s their school,” he said. “They want to raise funds to replace things that were damaged or broken.”
The cleanup process will be long, but the school will be ready for classes on April 9, after spring break is over. Despite an initial cleanup, he said, tiny shards of glass appear everywhere. “When you walk down the hall, the floor glints back at you.”
For now, he said, he had to decline offers from businesses for free help and materials. Damages will be covered by insurance, and the work is too specialized, and is being done by a restoration company from Wenatchee.
But he hopes to take advantage of an offer from Government Services Administration in Auburn, which called to offer three-year-old laptops that are surplus. “I’m going to drive down next week to look at 20 laptops and a couple of laser printers,” Himmler said, adding, “There’s just been an outpouring of people who want to help.”
Koplin declined to speculate about why the school was targeted, or whether they think students from Omak or from another school might be responsible. He said police believe suspects were in the school for about three and a half hours.
He said there is no indication that vandals had anything against Tyler Thompson, a 17-year-old Omak student who was killed snowmobiling in 2006. His memorial display case was smashed, and a retired sports jersey taken.
“It was very disrespectful. But there was enough other stuff done that there’s nothing to say they came in specifically to take that jersey,” Koplin said, adding, “What the motive for taking it was, I don’t know.”
A display case with a U.S. flag representing service in Iraq and Afghanistan was also broken, but the flag was not taken.
Himmler added that it didn’t appear that the vandalism was directed against any specific staff members a the school.
“Every glass pane in every office got smashed. There wasn’t a targeted area,” he said. “If you had a computer monitor, it got smashed.”
Himmler said in addition to the physical damage, students have expressed a feeling of insecurity due to the break-in.
He said the district will install cameras with better visual clarity, and a system that calls police when someone is in the building after hours.
“This system didn’t call out,” he said, adding that the new security system will immediately contact police. “Omak was always kind of a safe place, but now that this has happened, we realize we need to get with the times.”
K.C. Mehaffey: 997-2512
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