RICHLAND TOWNSHIP — Jeff Beal’s first reaction was disappointment.
The superintendent of Vestaburg Community School received a phone call around 12:30 a.m. Sunday from Northern Michigan Fire alerting him to a fire alarm going off at the school. When a maintenance man arrived at the school to make sure it wasn’t a false alarm, the Richland Township Fire Department was also on the scene.
Beal arrived at the school around 1 a.m. By that time, police were there too.
“Immediately we noticed that somebody had been in the building or was still in the building,” Beal said.
Multiple people, maybe three, used a cinderblock to break through a skylight in the school’s ceiling. From there, they used the cinderblock and a hammer to break into the teachers’ lounge and then the kindergarten wing, upper elementary and high school lobby. A kindergarten classroom sustained the most damage.
“This was the work of teenagers,” Beal said. “This was nothing but malicious vandalism. This is the work of a few students who have too much time on their hands and too little parental supervision.”
Beal estimates the school sustained at least $20,000 in damages, “and that’s being pretty conservative,” he said.
Vestaburg Community School contracts with DM Burr for custodial services. Custodians had recently finished cleaning the entire school for the summer and were supposed to take the month of July off so the district could save a month’s worth of wages. Now custodians are being called back in to clean up the mess, which could take up to a month.
“The district will obviously press charges,” said Beal of when the vandals are apprehended.
And that could be soon. When the vandals ran out of spray paint, they sprayed two fire extinguishers throughout the building. The fire extinguisher contents clogged up the smoke detectors, causing the fire alarm to go off early Sunday morning. The fire extinguishers also left a thick coating of dust everywhere — capturing the vandal’s fingerprints, handprints and footprints on multiple surfaces.
“They left us lots of evidence,” Beal said.
The Montcalm County Sheriff’s Office continues to investigate.