Juveniles cause $36,000 of damage to historic school in Reynolds

Shards of broken glass litter the ground, floors and surfaces are covered in fire extinguisher residue, and damage to history that can't be undone.

Posted: Jul 10, 2019 6:09 PM
Updated: Jul 11, 2019 4:30 PM

REYNOLDS, Ind. (WLFI) - Leaders in Reynolds are left picking up the pieces at the town's historic elementary school after juvenile vandals broke in. On Monday, the damage estimate came back with a hefty price tag of $36,000.

"On June the 11th, we were notified of the fire alarms going off and therefore the fire department was called up to this place," said Sharon Brooks, Honey Creek Township Trustee. She said they noticed a back window to the former school was broken.

"They used a log to break the window," she said. "It was actually part of the fence."

Shards of broken glass litter the ground, floors and surfaces are covered in fire extinguisher residue, and damage to history that can't be undone. Brooks pointed out a trophy case with a little plaque that said "Class of 1945" on it. The case holds several historic trophies, including the Reynolds High School White County Basketball Tournament trophy from 1929.

The original building of the school opened in the early 1900's. An addition was added on in the 1940's. Brooks said the building closed as a school in 2010. A building that once was a place of learning for kids, was destroyed by a group of elementary and middle school-aged kids. Brooks said two have already confessed.

The juveniles grabbed several of the building's fire extinguishers, spraying its contents over the entire gymnasium, a hallway and the kitchen. They found hammers to destroy the trophy cases.

"The hammers were going to be used to hang up historic photographs on the wall," said Brooks.

They also used the hammers to break the handles on the kitchen doors to get inside the kitchen. Once in there, they stole left over concession stand snacks. Empty candy bar wrappers, half-drunk cans of soda and nacho chips were scattered around the room. 

"They were just in here for a hay-day is what they were doing," she said. "We have a $500 reward out there for anyone who has information if they saw them come into the building. And we do have people who can identify them."

Other incriminating evidence was left behind. The kids left footprints and finger prints behind in the fire extinguisher residue. Based on the size of the footprints, investigators were able to determine that it was young people who did it. The kids also found matches. Several burnt out matches can be found on the floor of the historic gym.

"It's amazing they didn't burn the whole place down," said Brooks, as she stood in the gym, looking at the original wooden bleachers, stage curtains and floors. 

Below: Statement from the insurance company for cost of damages. Courtesy Historic Reynolds School Facebook page.

Brooks said they have taken steps to restore the historic building in the past year. It is being used more and more as a community center and event venue. She said it's booked for weddings, churches, basketball, and cornhole tournaments. Thankfully, no events had to be cancelled as a result of this incident.

"To come in and see the vandalism and know that a few kids could have a good time and come in because they were bored and cause $36,000 worth of damage...it's heartbreaking." she said.

She said they will have to use taxpayer money to help cover the cost of the $1,000 insurance deductible, and that they plan to host fundraisers to cover the costs. She said the community has been helpful as the search for the other vandals continues and in providing supper.

"I've been overwhelmed by the community," she said. "We've gotten phone calls, emails, texts, all from people in this community who care."

Now it's about cleaning up and moving forward.

"It'll be back," she said. "We're not going to let this be a setback. It will be back"

Click here to keep an eye on updates on the clean up and to be informed about fundraisers.

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