By Rebecca Schmitz
A vandal (or vandals) struck Crozet Elementary the night of Wednesday, April 8, causing nearly $3,000 worth of damage. The head of the school’s mascot, an eagle made of recycled tractor parts, was ripped off and stolen. In addition, a port-a-potty was tipped over, and parking signs anchored firmly in concrete were tilted as if hit by a car. Perhaps most disturbingly, the school’s gardening shed was completely burned.
“All that was left was cinder block. There were no pieces left. Thank goodness it rained that night,” principal Gwedette Crummie said, speculating that the rain may have prevented the fire from spreading to the nearby rain garden and the rest of the school grounds.
A member of the custodial staff discovered the destruction the next morning, April 9, and called the Albemarle County Police Department, the Albemarle County Fire Marshal, and the school system’s Building Services office. When Ms. Crummie arrived a short time later, all three departments were investigating. In response to the vandalism, police have increased patrols around the school, especially on weekends.
Despite the fact that there were no witnesses, and neighbors around the school did not see or hear anything suspicious, investigators were able to determine approximately when the fire started that night. A weather station attached to the top of the shed recorded a rise in temperature around 10:30 p.m., and the temperature continued to rise steadily until 10:50 p.m., when the weather station shut down. The newly-installed weather station has been part of the school’s environmental awareness efforts, and reliably kept track of humidity and temperature online. It was worth about $650, and had been paid for in conjunction with the school’s grant for developing and building its rain garden.
Jeff Rohm from Building Services said that insurance will cover the cost of the shed and weather station. He estimated the shed will be replaced sometime this summer, and a new weather station will be ordered within the next few weeks. The school is not sure whether or not someone will rebuild the eagle, which was built out of iron and steel six years ago as a gift from the fifth grade class in honor of former principal Karen Marcus’s retirement.
While Crummie was understandably shocked when she first witnessed the damage, she is confident the school can move on. “My hope is to replace and restore all that was damaged and keep soaring as the 2015 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School,” she said, referring to the designation awarded to the school on April 22. The students, while disappointed that someone would harm their school, are exercising their detective skills by brainstorming who might be responsible and why: “The children are doing a great job of trying to figure out who did this,” Crummie chuckled.