Vandals smash bus windows, lights at school in Potomac

Ivymount officials look to the community for help

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Officials at the Ivymount School are asking for the community’s help in stopping vandals that have targeted the special education school as recently as Memorial Day weekend.

Vandals caused more than $500 in damage to a school bus, two school vans and five parking lot lights outside the Ivy Mount School and Beverly Farms Children’s Center, which share the building located at 11614 Seven Locks Road, Montgomery County Police said.

Employees of the school and children’s center noticed the damage and reported it to police at approximately 8 a.m. May 30. The employees think the damage occurred sometime between 2 p.m. May 28 and 9 a.m. May 29, police said.

‘‘This is not the first time that we’ve been victims of the vandalism going on,” said Lee-Nadine Oppenheim, director of finance and administration at the school. ‘‘This is the most severe it’s been in a long time.”

The vandals smashed the front windshield of a school bus owned by the children’s center. They also smashed a middle window of one school van, and left an apparent BB gun bullet hole in another school van, along with five broken lights in the parking lot.

The school’s fields are open for community use on weekends and school officials hope neighbors will watch for and report any suspicious activity.

‘‘Very much like the public schools around us, we consider ourselves a part of the community,” said Melissa Prather, Ivymount director of development and communications. ‘‘We rely on our community and our neighbors to help us.”

The two vans alone cost more than $500 to fix, Oppenheim said. She is still determining the full cost of repairing damage.

Aside from the monetary cost, she said, alternative transportation had to be coordinated to replace the damaged vehicles, which are used to transport students to off-campus programs throughout the community.

‘‘It’s just a nightmare trying to rearrange transportation for the programs,” she said.

Paying to repair the damage places a heavy financial burden on the school, Prather said.

In the fall, the school’s vehicles were vandalized almost every weekend, Oppenheim said. Police believe teenagers are responsible for the damage. In the past, vandals have broken into school buses and set off fire extinguishers or stolen extinguishers. They have also urinated in buses and spray painted graffiti on school property, Oppenheim said.

At one point, she said, someone even broke into the school building through a hatch in the roof, but left after setting off an alarm.

There are security cameras on the school grounds, but they have not caught any trespassers on tape.

‘‘These people are smart,” Oppenheim said. ‘‘They do things out of the lens of the camera.”

Police are investigating the recent incident.

Anyone who may have information about the vandalism is asked to call the First District Community Outreach Officer at 301-279-1591. Anyone who wishes to remain anonymous may call Crime Solvers of Montgomery County toll-free at1-866-411-TIPS (8477).