PORTLAND — When teachers, parents and students returned to Riverton Elementary School from vacation on Monday they were greeted with evidence of what the principal called the worst case of vandalism the school has experienced.
Vandals tagged all areas of the school that were not near the heavily used Community Center. They tagged bricks, cement and several doors; they even managed to somehow scale the walls and paint the school’s ventilation system, leaving parents and faculty wondering how they did it and how many people were involved.
“It’s terrible,” said parent Sally Donelson, who had just walked her third-grader to school. “It’s degrading to the school. This past year has been the worst.”
Riverton Principal Nancy Kopack said the school is working with Learning Works, formerly Portland West, to have the graffiti removed as soon as possible. The nonprofit agency had scheduled a clean-up session for Monday, but the school-owned equipment was broken.
Kopack said the pump in the pressure washer had been fixed by Tuesday, and she expected crews would be there soon to clean up the mess.
“The schools are a top priority for the city,” Kopack said. “The longer we leave (graffiti) there, the more it attracts.”
Facilities Director Doug Sherwood said it’s difficult to estimate the amount of damage done to the school, because graffiti removal is labor-intensive. Sherwood said Learning Works will provide the labor as part of its youth-building program that seeks to install job skills and a sense of community service in the kids.
“The shine on this is that Portland has a very low incident rate” of graffiti, Sherwood said. “We do ask people that if they see anything out sort to give us a call and report it. Neighbors helping neighbors is the best way to instill pride in the community.”
Kopack said the vandalism has been photographed and a report has been filed with police.
Although many Portland schools face a variety of maintenance needs beyond vandalism, Riverton Elementary School was highlighted in a recent study of public school facilities as one of the city’s three state-of-the-art elementary schools. The original 1977 building was improved in 2007 with new classrooms and the Community Center.
Kopack said it is unusual for the school to be the target of such a large-scale assault, since the building is heavily used and typically respected by the community. Although she wasn’t sure if Riverton was the only school to be tagged over vacation, Kopack said she’s aware that other schools have experienced other kinds of vandalism, like broken windows.
“The good weather brings out problems,” she said.
Kopack said she is at a loss to explain how the vandals scaled the more than 20-foot high walls to get on the roof. There is access to the roof from inside the building, she said, but vandals would have had to get through two presumably locked doors to gain access.
“I don’t know how they got up there,” Kopack said. “But this is the most extensive (vandalism) we have ever seen.”
Vandals tagged Riverton Elementary School over the weekend, causing extensive damage. (Billings photo)