3 break-ins during 2 weeks doesn't deter release of report cards

PROSSER -- Prosser High School report cards went out late this summer after repeated vandalism damaged equipment in the office where they are printed.

Burglars and vandals broke into the high school three times during the course of two weeks this month, causing considerable damage and disrupting school operations.

During the most recent incident Monday, two Prosser juveniles went into the agricultural shop and stole a few small-engine tools, said Kevin Lusk, the school's principal.

Contrary to initial reports, the door to the shop was locked and closed, but wasn't pushed shut far enough to completely latch, Lusk said.

Two suspects in that burglary were caught the same day, after they were overheard bragging about their exploits, Lusk said. The missing items were recovered.

The previous two incidents caused more damage -- weeks later, parts of the school still are in disarray.

Vandals first broke into the school June 6, before classes were out for summer, breaking display cases, smearing walls with food and paint, and stealing a former star quarterback's prized jersey.

Teachers corralled students into the cafeteria, janitors cleaned things up as best as they could and finals and state testing went on with only short delays.

Ten days later, another case of vandalism, this one worse.

It left large swaths of the school covered in white retardant from fire extinguishers, more shattered glass and smeared paint. Items from the front office were stolen, and the perpetrators broke through the locked door of the school library.

This week, cleanup still was in full swing at Prosser High.

Hallways were sealed off with thick plastic sheeting. Industrial-sized fans with filters circulated and cleaned the air still heavy with dust.

Workers from BELFOR Restoration kneeled on hallway floors, scraping away gray and red paint splotches.

Outside, another worker loaded up copiers clogged with extinguisher dust.

"That's what we were going to print our report cards on," Lusk said, pointing at the office machines.

Lusk and his staff spent several days moving records and supplies to a computer lab in another building on campus.

Office staff worked furiously to get report cards sent out and did so Wednesday, Lusk said -- only a couple of days behind schedule.

School officials also initially feared the destruction would disrupt summer classes. But they're happening as scheduled, Lusk said.

Most summer classes are held at Prosser Falls High School. A few are at Prosser High School, but outside of the main building where all the damage was done, Lusk said.

Damage on this scale hasn't been seen in Prosser schools in 10 years. In summer 2001, a young man was arrested for starting a fire in the high school.

Since then, there has been the occasional graffiti on the outside of the building, but nothing approaching this recent damage, said Lusk, who has been the principal for 10 years.

"This (damage) is not indicative of our kids," he said.

In fact, many students have called the school and offered to help with the cleanup, Lusk said. "They ask, 'What can we do?' " he said. "They're not real happy about this."

Neither was Lusk when he first heard about it.

"I was ticked off," he said. "And that's the nice word for it. This was uncalled for -- our students and staff don't deserve this."

Police received copies this week of all video footage taken by security cameras during the two incidents, said police Chief Pat McCullough.

"We're trying to determine if the first two (break-ins) are related," he said. "For now, we have to treat them as separate incidents."

The fact that the vandals appeared to know where to enter and where the cameras were doesn't mean they're current students of the school, McCullough said.

"It's an open campus; everybody's been through there," he said.

Police and school officials are not releasing which items were taken in the first two burglaries. That would hinder efforts to follow the trail of those items, McCullough said.

ContactAnyone with information should call 509-786-1500 or email crimetips@prosserpd.org.