Bethel preschool re-opens after monumental cleanup effort

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The M.E. Preschool is open after a week of extensive cleaning. Photo by Dean Swope / KYUK.

The Bethel M.E. preschool is 95-percent back to normal after a week of cleaning up after vandals.

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Lower Kuskokwim School District Superintendent Dan Walker says students were back on Monday.

“While it was a very negative event, it was quite heartwarming to see the outpouring of support. It really renewed our faith for the community as a whole coming together when there is something ugly like this that happened. So, we’re quite pleased with that, and we’re really happy we could get back up and running in a week. That was a really monumental effort,” said Walker.

Vandals trashed preschool classrooms and smashed windows in 13 of the Lower Kuskokwim School District’s vehicles earlier this month. Crews had to remove chemicals that were left when fire extinguishers were emptied. After extensive cleaning, preschool staff came in Thursday and worked through Saturday to get classrooms ready. New computers and smart boards will arrive soon.

Walker says the current estimates of damages hovers around $125,000, but it may grow to $150,000. Insurance will cover some, but the district may be on the line for $75,000 to $100,000, says Walker.

Police identified five juveniles ages 10 and 13, and forwarded charges to the department of juvenile justice. Walker says the district will consider adding more security cameras on top of those that helped them find suspects.

“We certainly are going to be looking at adding additional lighting, and taking a look at the campus in general where the district office is located with the schools around it. We’ll be looking at areas that might be vulnerable to vandalism,” said Walker.

The local teacher and staff association is making a donation to teachers to replace supplies destroyed by the vandalism. Walker says there have been offers from around the state and even the lower 48 to send supplies.