Vandalism at two north Kanata elementary schools is taking funds away from the students.
Georges Vanier Catholic Elementary School and W. Erskine Johnston Public School – both located on Varley Drive – have suffered thousands of dollars of damage to their properties over the past few months. Vandals have broken numerous windows and scrawled graffiti over the facades of the buildings.
“It’s tens of thousands of dollars to replace the windows,” said W. Erskine Johnston principal Jennifer Shirley. “It’s really significant.”
The public elementary school has been hit repeatedly since October, she said, when the school was tagged with offensive comments and images.
“There was a stretch there where we were hit almost every night for two weeks,” she said. “My custodian and I would race around at 7:30 in the morning to cover up the inappropriate images.”
In November, the school suffered smashed windows. Over the holiday period in December and January, the school was targeted again.
“We’re looking at eight panes on the kindergarten side,” said Shirley.
In total, 35 panes of glass have been smashed at W. Erskine Johnston, including windows in the portables, along the original building and those in the new kindergarten wing, which opened in November. The school’s addition houses three junior and senior kindergarten classrooms as well as a room for a Grade 5 French immersion class.
“They left no facade untouched,” said Shirley. “It seems like every school holiday we get hit with something.”
The panes in the new wing are large picture windows, and very expensive. The outside of many of the windows have been shattered, with spider web-shaped cracks extending from the points of impact.
Although the vandals didn’t break through to the second layer, they did damage the seals. Inside the classrooms, condensation can be seen on the windows where moisture has seeped indoors.
The replacement windows will take at least another eight weeks to arrive, said Shirley, and then they have to be installed, which will disrupt classes.
“That’s frustrating,” she said. “I just want it to stop.”
Down the street at Georges Vanier, around 13 windows have been broken since the vandalism began in November, said Fred Chrystal, superintendent at the Catholic school board.
Most of the glass panes have already been restored, but it’s expensive. To replace the windows costs around $6,000.
“We would rather spend our money where it’s directed to student success than direct it to willful damage to our schools,” said Chrystal. “It’s a vexing problem for us.”
He added there is an anxiety associated with the damage because no one knows when or if the school will be hit with more vandalism.
“Unless you’re actually there at the time that it occurs, there’s really not a lot you can do about it,” said Chrystal.
The two schools are collaborating and working with the police in the hopes of ending the vandalism.
“We are all each others eyes and ears out there,” said Chrystal. “We’re all looking out for each other in subdivisions and communities.”
Ottawa police Const. Lori Fahey, with the Kanata and Stittsville community police centre, issued a crime alert asking the public for assistance in keeping on eye on both schools.
“Together we can make our community safer,” she said in the alert. “Please be alert to suspicious activity in the area.”
She said it’s likely that metal bars or pipes from nearby construction in the area is being used to damage the windows. The vandals would have used considerable force to break the glass.
The vandalism is taking place overnight, said Fahey, adding she’s encouraging people to report anything deemed suspicious to the police.
To report suspicious activity:
* Call 911 for a crime in progress.
* Call 613-230-6211 to report suspicious activity.
* Call 613-236-1222, ext. 7300 with any information relating to this or any other crime.
* Call 613-233-8477 to make an anonymous report or visit crimestoppers.ca.