Whitehall students did not have school on Thursday because vandals deflated the tires on the district’s buses. Police say they saw two suspects on a video taken from the the scene.
Whitehall Police and Whitehall District School are investigating the vandalism of the district’s bus fleet which resulted in school being closed on Thursday.
Whitehall Police Chief Roger Squires reported the police are reviewing video from cameras installed in the bus parking area next to the bus garage at the corner of Livingston and Sophia streets, next to Ealy Elementary School.
Squires reported the video shows two suspects letting air out of the bus tires.
The subjects let the air out of multiple tires on all 19 of the district’s school buses sometime early Thursday morning before the drivers were to be transporting as many as 1,500 of the district’s over 2,100 students, according to School Superintendent Jerry McDowell.
The buses are parked in rows outside the garage in an unfenced area.
McDowell said the vandalism occurred sometime after midnight and 5:45 a.m. when Transportation Supervisor Kip Medendorp discovered the flat tires. He said the first high school buses were scheduled to leave on their routes at 6 a.m., 6:20 a.m. and 6:30 a.m.
The superintendent said the tires were deflated by manipulating the values to allow the air to escape. McDowell said the tires were not damaged.
“We made the decision early on to cancel school for the day,” McDowell said. “It would take a couple of hours to reinflate the tires and another couple of hours to test them for safety.”
Parents and staff were notified in a variety of ways, using social media, telephone messages and message on local television stations.
“We put notices on our Facebook page and on our website,” McDowell said. Also, the district used its new instant phone messaging system to notify parents, staff and others who are part of the system. The superintendent said the system can get a message out to about 2,200 phone numbers within five minutes.
“The vandalism impacted a lot of people,” McDowell added. “Parents had to scramble to try and arrange care for their students. Teachers were ready to teach.”
The superintendent said the school closing did not effect the scheduling of parent-teacher conferences or athletic events Thursday night.
However, high school juniors who were taking standardized testing last week, will have to make up the testing scheduled for Thursday.
“We had previously set up a makeup day,” McDowell said.
The unscheduled day off will not have to be made up by the students unless the district has another cancellation before the end of the school year.
Before Thursday, Whitehall had five days cancelled because of inclement weather, and McDowell said the state allows districts to cancel six days before they have to start making the days up. The first makeup date, he added, would be the Friday on the last week of school.
McDowell said Thursday morning the both the district and the Whitehall Police will be investigating the incident.