School spirit can’t be shattered

An uncanny quiet hung outside Golden Horn Elementary School Tuesday morning, as classrooms and the playground stood empty.

An uncanny quiet hung outside Golden Horn Elementary School Tuesday morning, as classrooms and the playground stood empty.

The calm seemed particularly out of place against the backdrop of shattered windows and widely scattered broken glass.

Those who arrived at the school in the early morning hours said glass shards covered numerous classrooms and the ground outside.

Little is known about the people who destroyed as many as 40 windows.

But at least four suspects broke into the school at around 3 a.m., said police.

Using rocks to smash into the building, they set off “multiple intrusion alarms,” according to a police release.

The vandals then tore through the school, launching a computer monitor into the hall, smashing a printer, pushing over a filing cabinet, kicking in doors and generally trashing the inside of the building.

When they reached the school near the Carcross cutoff, RCMP officers tried to pursue suspects through the forest.

“(Attending RCMP officers) heard voices, not too far a distance away and the crunching of snow from running,” said RCMP Cpl. Tom Wyers.

“They took pursuit in that general area and were not able to come up with anything at all. It is fully suspected that these persons were fleeing the scene.”

While four people were caught on the school’s surveillance cameras, there may have been more people involved, said police.

Although there is footage of the vandals, they were wearing masks, similar to balaclavas, said department of Education director of learning David Sloan.

“We managed to capture them on camera but, unfortunately, they were wearing disguises,” said Sloan.

“Obviously somebody had put a little bit of planning into it. I don’t think that they just randomly chose the school.

“I think they were out to do some destruction and came equipped.”

With numerous classrooms showered in glass, Golden Horn is more vulnerable to vandalism because of its isolated location, added Sloan.

The building is hidden from view by the surrounding woods

“It’s very isolated,” said Sloan. “It’s set well back from the road, so it’s not a major thoroughfare.”

The break-in differs from past incidents in the territory’s schools because nothing major appears to have been stolen.

A quick inventory showed computers, TVs and VCRs were still there, said Sloan.

“This was just wanton destruction. There was no attempt for finding money or anything.”

School principal Chris Wright arrived at Golden Horn at 5:30 a.m. to find windows spider-webbed with breakage.

The wooden buildings are like a second home to students, he said, noting that two parents had reported their children were in tears.

“It feels like part of your soul is being ripped away temporarily,” said Wright against the din of numerous vacuum cleaners.

“I don’t know if that’s what vandals wanted to do, but we will not be brought down by this.”

The school’s spirit will not be broken like its windows.

“This is not just a job — this is our life, this is our vocation, this is our children we’re talking about,” said Wright from a school hallway.

“We will recover as we’re recovering right now. My staff is pulling together and our children will tomorrow.”

By 10 a.m. Tuesday, teachers were donning thick gloves, picking shards out of books and wooden instruments.

Custodians and building maintenance workers were gutting windows and clearing out the remains of the windows.

No cost estimate has been given for the 30 to 40 windows that were destroyed.

The school was up and running today, though a couple classrooms remained closed for part of the morning for further cleaning, said Wright.

As well, teachers and students took part in an assembly this morning.

“We sang out school song, a song which talks about a caring environment,” Wright added.

Among the supportive words spoken were those of a kindergartner who said, “It’s not fair; our school is special.”

And it is, said Wright. 

His message for Golden Horn students and parents is simple.

“Somebody has intruded into our school, but not to be scared about that. (Students should) feel safe when they come to our school.”