Penticton facilities bear the brunt as school vandalism bill hits $27,000

School district reports, however, that cost of repairing damage is down by more than half in the past three years

Two schools near the crossroads of Penticton remain among the area’s most vandalized educational facilities.

Set at the edge of the downtown core, KVR Middle and Penticton Secondary in 2013 generated a quarter of all vandalism-related work orders within the Okanagan Skaha School District, according to a staff report.

There were 22 orders for things like glass repair and graffiti removal generated at KVR Middle alone.

“Where it’s located is actually a fairly high-traffic population area,” said principal Steve DeVito.

“We have lots of people going through here, not just during the day but evenings (and) weekends, and I would suggest that the majority of the cleanup would be graffiti on the walls,” he said.

On the other side of Jermyn Avenue, there were 20 work orders created for Penticton Secondary, down from 23 in 2012, the year it was the district’s most frequently repaired school.

In all, the district spent about $27,000 on labour for 161 vandalism work orders in 2013, down from $28,000 and 181 jobs a year earlier.

Costs were still much lower than in 2010, when the bill totalled $64,000 for 350 work orders.

Facilities director Doug Gorcak, who presented the information this week in a report to a school board committee, said vandalism activity ebbs and flows, but there are occasional bad spells.

“Especially in smaller community schools, you’ll have a group of youth that go through and that’s what they do,” Gorcak said.

“They seem to get together on evenings or weekends and they spray paint, and as soon as they get old enough to get cars they’re out of the community and we don’t see anything for three or four years.”

He told the committee the 2013 numbers were pulled down by an unusually quiet end to October.

“One of the things that was very glaring (that) year was after Halloween we had minimal things we had to chase after,” Gorcak said.

“There was some cleanup of fireworks and things like that, but no one seemed to have their cans of spray paint with them or rocks.”

But he noted a major incident in late June at Uplands Elementary, where vandals smeared roofing tar on the building’s windows and walls, wasn’t included in the tally.

Gorcak estimated the repair cost at $40,000 for that event, but said an insurance claim hasn’t yet been finalized. The incident was highlighted by Crime Stoppers in July, but no arrests have been made.

The district doesn’t maintain a budget for vandalism repair, since the cost is covered through a larger pool of funds set aside for maintenance and repair of facilities.