BRUCE BUMSTEAD/BRANDON SUN
Restoration crews from First on Site work to clean up the damage left behind after vandals broke into the Sioux Valley School on Sioux Valley Dakota Nation early on May 18. Police say a number of youths have been arrested.
SIOUX VALLEY DAKOTA NATION — A number of youth have been arrested and staff are scrambling to set up temporary classrooms after damage done by vandals shut down the Sioux Valley School.
"The community is upset. They were disappointed," said Sioux Valley Dakota Nation Chief Vince Tacan of the vandalism.
It’s believed the school was broken into between 3 a.m. and 4 a.m. on May 18. Dakota Ojibway Police Service Insp. Marc Saindon said a number of Sioux Valley youths have been arrested as a result, with further arrests pending.
Residents say a number of buildings were tagged with gang-related graffiti as part of the same vandalism spree, including the school daycare and three trailer homes.
The red spray paint graffiti included the letters "MOB" which stands for Most Organized Brothers, an aboriginal street gang.
Residents say that within the school itself, three to four classrooms were severely damaged, especially the Grade 6 classroom.
Computers were also broken, paint was spread on the floor and projector equipment was damaged.
A fire was set in the main foyer, but residents said alarms didn’t go off. It was janitorial staff that found the damage later that morning.
It appears the school’s sprinkler system prevented the fire from spreading. However, it seems the water damaged the computers and expensive colour copier machines in the administration area.
Food was tossed around the cafeteria kitchen and the microwave was vandalized.
The administration office was damaged extensively by fire, said Tacan, who added that the gym and a few classrooms weren’t badly damaged.
Saindon said one early estimate placed the dollar figure for the destruction at $250,000.
There’s no word on how the fire was set.
"It’s just crazy," said one resident who has a daughter in Grade 2 who has missed a week of school and will have to finish the year in a portable classroom.
"It’s not fair. Those kids shouldn’t even do stuff like that."
"I don’t know why anybody would do that," said Daryl Bunn, another Sioux Valley resident.
Some residents said the vandalism is the result of a lack of programs and activities for reserve youth.
"It makes me feel angry. Why should the kids do that?" Amelia Sioux said. "There’s nothing for them to do around here, like sports or things like that, to keep them busy."
Sioux said chief and council need to do more to run programs for youth. There used to be a recreation committee, she said, but it has been inactive in recent years.
As a result of the vandalism, the school was shut down on May 18 and has remained closed since to allow cleanup.
"You can’t have kids running around power equipment and hydraulic lifts, so it’s a safety issue," Tacan said.
Up to 90 kindergarten to Grade 7 students attend the school, which will remain closed for the remainder of this school year.
That’s left staff scrambling to set up makeshift classrooms so students can continue their studies for the rest of the year which extends to mid June.
The kindergarten class has finished its school year, but classes will resume on Monday for Grade 1-7 students.
Grade 1 and 2 lessons will be taught in portable classrooms outside the school, while Grade 3 students will study in the Sioux Valley self-government office at the reserve.
Tacan said Grade 4-7 students will be bused to Brandon to use four vacant classrooms at Sioux Valley High School.
There’s no precise number for the number of pupils to be transported.
"There’s probably going to be an extra one or two buses coming," Tacan said.
Breakfast and lunch programs for younger students will still run, too, as Tacan said various facilities are available for those programs.
Graduation and award ceremonies have been relocated to Veterans Hall at Sioux Valley.
The kindergarten grad was held there on Friday and the Grade 1-8 year-end awards will be held there on June 15.
Sioux Valley High School students will graduate at the hall on June 19 as planned.
Tacan said he expects the damaged school will be cleaned up in time for the next academic year.
"It’s going to be something that can be repaired, so it’s just created a bit of an inconvenience for us right now," Tacan said. "You just have to deal with it and plan for it and move on."
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition May 26, 2012