Some students and teachers at Governor Wallace Rider Farrington High School in Kalihi were left in the dark Monday after a thief or thieves broke into several utility boxes over the weekend and stole bundles of copper wiring.
Vice Principal Ronald Oyama tells KITV4 the thefts began about two weeks ago when power poles that line Vance Drive were stripped of their copper, leaving that part of the campus without lighting. But when he arrived at the school Monday morning he was told about a power outage and began investigating.
“The Facilities Maintenance Branch came and did an assessment and started telling us, ‘You have this area that’s gone, no wiring,’ and even while we’re walking around buildings, we see another place without wiring,” said Oyama.
Teachers in 25 classrooms inside the school’s ‘I’ and ‘J’ buildings were forced to conduct lesson plans with no electricity, which at times proved challenging. Some of those rooms were also left without the use of air conditioning and teachers were forced to open louvers to keep temperatures comfortable. Two portable classrooms were also left without power and the school’s PA system can only be heard in some parts of campus.
“They’re stealing a lot of our time with our kids,” said Oyama. “We don’t have phone lines, our electricity is out, and you know, we can’t use technology.”
It also appears the thief or thieves was planning on hitting the school yet again. A pair of bolt cutters was found stashed at the school for use on a later date.
“They came and knew exactly what to cut,” said Oyama.
Electricians from A & B Electric Company were at Farrington High School late Monday afternoon to survey the damage and make a decision on how to proceed with repairs. The initial damage was estimated at $28,000, but that figure could grow.
Department of Education spokeswoman Donalyn Dela Cruz said once repairs are finished, utility boxes at the school will be covered with security plates. The school has eight security guards on staff, but the guards don’t remain on campus during nighttime hours. Oyama is urging the community to remain vigilant and notify police of any suspicious activity.
“If you see anybody cruising on campus during nighttime hours, it’s hard to kind of see, but if you can, call the police,” he said.
Honolulu Police spokeswoman Sarah Yoro said the vandalism is being investigated as a theft of copper case, a class C felony punishable by up to five years in prison and as much as a $10,000 fine.