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Oxnard Schools to Spend $10,000 to Fight Vandalism : Education: Board votes to hire another guard and increase height of gates after attack on newest campus.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Responding to an incident of vandalism at its newest campus, the Oxnard School District will spend about $10,000 to improve the school’s entrance gates and post temporary, round-the-clock security at the site.

A security guard has patrolled the $21-million Robert J. Frank Intermediate School since it opened last week, including the campus in routine Monday-through-Friday tours of all the district’s schools, officials said.

On Wednesday, however, the school board unanimously approved hiring an additional officer to guard the Frank campus, on North Juanita Avenue near Colonia Road, in the evenings and on weekends for the next six weeks, or until the gates are made more secure. The school’s architect has been asked to help draw up a plan to make the gates higher.

“We need this type of security until we are sure that no one can get in,” said Trustee James T. Suter. “We can’t hope that nothing will happen.”

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The board’s action comes in the wake of an incident last weekend, in which an unknown number of vandals climbed over the school’s gates, broke 78 water sprinkler heads and smashed 16 floodlights and fixtures, causing $6,000 in damage, said school Principal Pete Nichols.

“I was surprised that anyone would want to destroy something that is so vital to so many young people,” said Trustee Dorothie Sterling. “They don’t understand that they are destroying something that belongs to them.”

According to police and school officials, the vandals scaled one of three nine-foot-high gates to gain entry to the campus.

The board directed school administrators to spend up to $10,000 to increase the height of the three gates and install a deterrent at the top to prevent anyone from climbing over them.

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“Once they get in, no one can see them,” Suter said, referring to the school’s office and classroom entrances, which all face away from the street.

The school, between La Colonia and the Ventura Freeway, is an easy target because of the remoteness of its location, said Oxnard Police Detective Gino Rodriguez.

The fenced-in campus has celery and strawberry fields on its north and east sides, and athletic fields to its south and west.

The vandalism at the Frank School marked the second such incident in the district in two recent weeks. On July 24, vandals struck at Fremont Intermediate School, scrawling graffiti and obscene drawings on all but one of the school’s buildings.

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The district spent nearly $900 to cover the graffiti, said Fremont Principal Paul Kirk.

Supt. Bernard Korenstein said vandalism is on the rise districtwide.

“We have always had vandalism in our schools,” Korenstein said. “But not to this extent.”

Rodriguez said the crime has been more common at high schools than in middle schools.

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“School vandalism goes hand-in-hand with gang activity, and as the number of gangs increase in the middle schools, vandalism also increases,” Rodriguez said.

The Oxnard Union High School District spends about $100,000 a year on security and another $100,000 to repair damage from vandalism, said assistant business manager Richard W. Canady.

“We have vandalism virtually everyday,” Canady said. “It’s rare when it doesn’t happen.”

At the Frank School, concerned parents are forming a neighborhood watch group to patrol the area.

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“Once we organize ourselves, we will be able to keep an eye on the school,” said Rosa Garibay, whose daughter is a seventh-grade student at Frank. “It’s sad what happened to our new neighborhood school. We will do everything we can to prevent that.”


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