By Matt Mais
Triplicate staff writer
School vandals nearly set Bess Maxwell Elementary on fire Friday morning.
Vandals also sprayed graffiti on the the "DN" insignia painted on the front of Del Norte High School and smashed two 600-pound concrete picnic tables worth $1,000 each at Joe Hamilton Elementary late Thursday night or early Friday morning, according to school officials.
The recent destruction of school property is the second time Joe Hamilton and Bess Maxwell have been hit within the past month. Crescent Elk Middle School has also been targeted twice by vandals during that period.
"It is very disappointing," said Del Norte County School District Superintendent Jan Moorehouse.
School and law enforcement officials are going to be beefing up security over the graduation weekend. However, neither would elaborate on what sort of additional security measures would be taken.
"We have a plan in place," Moorehouse said.
"We're going to be doing a special intensified watch," Crescent City Police Chief Doug Plack said.
At 9:30 a.m. on Friday the first day of summer vacation for Del Norte County students firefighters responded to a report of a call about smoke coming from a wall connected of the multipurpose room at Bess Maxwell.
A hot-burning halogen security light, kicked off the roof sometime overnight, had hung against the side of the building for several hours and caused the wall's concrete composite siding to crack and the studs inside the wall to burn.
Both the Crescent City Volunteer Fire Department and the Crescent Fire Protection District responded to the call.
Firefighters cut a four-foot opening in the wall open and extinguished the small fire inside.
Damage was estimated by school officials at less than $1,000.
Fire Chief Steve Wakefield said the wall's concrete composite siding saved the building.
"It could have been a lot worse," he said.
The vandals also broke two windows at Bess Maxwell and another halogen security light.
It will cost about $300 to replace the windows and $450 to replace the security lights, according to Victor Denham, director of maintenance and operations for the school district.
On May 24, a classroom at Joe Hamilton was so badly damaged that it was unusable for several days.
Vandals discharged a fire extinguisher inside the classroom, and also defaced walls and doors with graffiti and overturned planter at the school. In addition, a a $3,000 sound system was stolen from a classroom, school officials said.