The physical education field at Orville Wright Middle School in Westchester received “substantial damage” after an unknown number of suspects used a bulldozer to tear down basketball and volleyball poles and destroy a handball court sometime during the night Saturday, December 9th, school officials said.
The bulldozer was also used to tear up a freestanding brick wall and a storage unit containing emergency supplies and other equipment at the school, located at 6550 80th St., Orville Wright principal Stephen Rochelle said.
Officials are still trying to assess the amount of damage done to the field area, but some reports have estimated the damage at about $200,000.
Rochelle said police received phone calls from neighbors near the school who said they heard equipment being moved around between 7 and 8 p.m. December 9th.
The principal said he told police there was no project being done at the time and he was informed of the property damage Sunday morning, December 10th.
All of the damage appears to have been done by a bulldozer that was already at the school field for a $3 million renovation project that includes removing old asphalt and repaving, Rochelle said.
Officials are unsure how many people may have been involved in the incident, but Rochelle added that someone must have known how to operate the bulldozer.
“That’s a very intimidating piece of machinery,” Rochelle said of the bulldozer.
Rochelle said there was no sign of a break-in at the school and whoever was involved most likely entered the field by jumping the fence.
The news of the damage to the field has been tough for the sixth-through-eighth-graders at Orville Wright, the principal said.
“The kids are very disappointed,” said Rochelle, adding that many of the students are the ones who contacted the media about the incident. “It’s their school and they feel violated.”
The incident has also caused an “inconvenience” for the students because all of the physical education classes have been moved into the gymnasium, Rochelle said.
The school’s 1,150 students are currently restricted to playing only in the outside quad area during lunch, the principal said.
The students will leave for winter break beginning Friday, December 15th, and school officials said they hope the physical education field area will be considered safe, secure and accessible by the time students return Monday, January 8th.
The incident is under investigation by the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) police and Los Angeles Police Department.
Anyone with additional information regarding the incident is asked to contact LAUSD police at (213) 625-6631.