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Nanaimo school district enlists students to help reduce vandalism

Nanaimo school district’s anti-vandalism committee hopes to enlist the help of students to smash vandalism costs.

The committee is asking for $4,000 to spend on student-driven anti-vandalism initiatives in each of the district’s secondary schools. The request has yet to go to the school board for final approval.

“It’s just that whole awareness piece, it’s important to do that at the student level,” said trustee Sharon Welch, committee chairwoman.

“The idea is to get them enthusiastic about the idea that taking pride in their school is worthwhile.”

The anti-vandalism committee formed in 2010 to help combat the rising costs of vandalism in the district and members credit the efforts of the committee for the nearly 50 per cent reduction in repair costs seen between the 2009-10 school year and the 2010-11 school year, when costs went from about $150,000 to about $75,000.

Welch said vandalism costs were a bit higher last year, at about $87,400, but the numbers up to December indicate a downward trend again.

“We’re really happy to see we’re now under $100,000, but we believe we can still do better,” she said.

Last week vandals targeted Rutherford Elementary School, breaking windows and setting a dumpster on fire. Damage is estimated to cost thousands of dollars.

Work by the committee to date includes buying devices that emit a high frequency noise that discourages loitering after hours, meetings with various stakeholder groups to discuss the issue, and working with the police to establish Crime Stoppers programs in schools.

Just before the committee formed, the board gave student groups at three secondary schools funding for projects to combat vandalism, such as Dover Bay Secondary School’s online tips website and an awareness building initiative at Nanaimo District Secondary School.

Welch said doing another round of student initiatives will encourage students to notice vandalism and perhaps do something about it.

If the board approves the spending, the committee will request that student groups send in project proposals and then the money will be doled out based on how many schools respond – if all secondary schools, including learning alternatives, choose to participate, each group gets $500.

The hope is to have projects start up in the next few months, with the money given out next fall, said Welch.

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