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Vandals hit two East Helena schools

Vandals hit two East Helena schools
Posted at 12:15 PM, Apr 22, 2024

With the help of security camera footage, two 15-year-old juveniles are in custody and have been taken to the juvenile detention center in Great Falls, according to Lewis & Clark County Sheriff Leo Dutton.

On Saturday evening, individuals broke into Radley Elementary sometime after 10 PM through a conference room window, before making their way to East Valley Middle School where they broke in through another window. The suspects destroyed school property such as computer screens, smart boards, and toilets. They also stole money and student prescriptions.

While insurance agents were on site, the damage left a district already constrained by a tight budget with the pains of picking up the pieces.

Superintendent of East Helena Public Schools Dan Rispens said, “It’s pretty horrendous, the amount of damage. We won’t be surprised if the total damages exceed six figures."

“I can certainly understand how someone who goes to school there or works there would feel violated. This is terrible. And I don’t have any other explanation other than we will work to bring to justice the people who did this,” says Dutton.

While Radley Elementary opened to students on Monday, East Valley Middle School - where most of the damage was done - was forced to close while cleanup crews tended to the school. And with most of the curriculum online and smart boards broken, resuming normal operations is difficult.

Jason Cobb, a social studies teacher at East Valley, says that he’s still in shock about the whole situation.

“As a school, you try to be a backbone for the community. And, it hurts, you know, as far as that when you’re damaging not only to us as teachers but just the community in general. I mean, everybody puts into the time into the volunteering into the school. We, you know, you give quite a bit to be here, and it, yeah, it just hurts. You feel kind of betrayed for something like this to happen,” says Cobb.

(1st REPORT) Two schools in East Helena were vandalized over the weekend, with damage so extensive at one school that classes were canceled on Monday.

East Helena School Superintendent Dan Rispens said in a social media post that Radley Elementary School and East Valley Middle School saw significant damage over the weekend.

“Sometime during the evening of April 20, two of our schools were broken into and vandalized. The affected schools are Radley and EVMS. At Radley, the culprits vandalized the office, breaking glass out of doors and busting up computers. The damage at EVMS was much more extensive,” Rispens wrote.

EVMS saw broken windows and glass throughout the school causing a cancellation of classes on Monday, April 22, due to safety concerns and allowing time for cleaning and initial repairs.

“I apologize for the late timing of this notice. We were holding out hopes that we might be able to get things cleaned up at EVMS, but the magnitude of the damage is too great for us to safely host students there tomorrow,” Rispens wrote.

Anyone with information about the break-ins is encouraged to contact the Lewis & Clark County Sheriff's Office through the non-emergency line at 406-447-8235 or the school district Central Office at 406-227-7700.

People looking to help on Monday can drop off snacks, meals, and drinks and have "discussions with your children [about] the ramifications of such a senseless act."