Juvenile charges are being pursued against 10 Valparaiso middle school students accused of breaking into three local elementary schools undergoing renovations and causing $10,000 in damages, according to police.
The break-ins occurred over several months, beginning with the discovery of vandalism Sept. 10 at Memorial Elementary School, 1052 Park Ave., according to Valparaiso police Sgt. Mike Grennes.
Damage was discovered Nov. 20 at Central Elementary School, 305 Franklin St., and Nov. 27 at Northview Elementary School, 257 Northview Drive, he said.
Police believe the students gained at least some of their access to the buildings through the more vulnerable, boarded-up areas of construction, Grennes said. Access to one site was gained through a screen window.
The students are accused of spraying a fire extinguisher in the hallway at Memorial and throwing other items around the building, he said.
When police arrived to investigate at Central, they found windows and glass blocks broken or damaged in the construction area, Grennes said.
Northview had several items damaged within the school and construction areas, he said. Items damaged included duct work, copper piping and metal doors.
It is believed a combination of the same 10 students played a role in each of the three break-ins, Grennes said. All the students are local.
Charges being pursued against the students range from trespassing to criminal mischief, he said.
"It is highly unusual for our kids to do this," Valparaiso Community Schools Superintendent Ric Frataccia said.
Frataccia would not say what in-house actions, if any, the schools are taking against the students.
He did say the contractors carrying out the renovation work have been asked to do a better job at "buttoning up" their work sites when they leave.