Classes started as normal at Wade King Elementary School on Monday, March 18, thanks to the efforts of staff and volunteers who worked Sunday to clean classrooms and fix damage in the wake of a weekend burglary, school officials said.
Vandals broke into the school late Saturday night, March 16, discharging fire extinguishers and rampaging through classrooms and common areas. Wade King Principal Analisa Ficklin called it a "senseless act" and said the school district is offering a $1,000 reward for information about the incident.
"We've had people out there all day doing cleaning volunteers and staff getting things ready," said Tanya Rowe, the district's director of communications.
Firefighters from South Whatcom Fire Authority discovered the burglary as they answered a call for a fire alarm about 10:20 p.m. Saturday at the school, 2155 Yew Street Road. A battalion chief reported there was no apparent fire when he arrived, and prepared to investigate with the first-due engine company.
Once firefighters realized the school had been vandalized, they withdrew from the building to avoid contaminating the crime scene.
About 10 patrol units from the Whatcom County Sheriffs Office and the Bellingham Police Department were dispatched to search the two-story building, but it was determined that the intruders had fled, said sheriffs Sgt. Beth Larson. An officer with a police dog searched the building and school grounds without result, Larson said.
Officers, deputies and detectives worked throughout the night to collect and process evidence, she said.
No damage estimate was released Sunday, and Larson said authorities had no immediate suspects. She said at least two people were involved.
She did not say how the intruders gained access to the building.
Dozens of school staff members were notified of the break-in by phone Sunday morning, but they were told that school would start as usual Monday. Teachers and staff were asked to check their classrooms Sunday for missing items.
Damage included smashed items, including walls and furniture that were defaced with spray paint. Computers were wrecked by the contents of fire extinguishers, which were discharged throughout the school. Hallways and other common areas were covered in a thin film of white powder from dry-chemical extinguishers.
Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call 911.
Robert Mittendorf is a Herald copy editor and page designer. Contact him at 360-756-2805 or at email@example.com.