Wednesday’s report that Nikiski Middle-High School had been vandalized overnight comes as a kick in the gut, not just to the students and faculty who attend and work in the building, but to the community as a whole.
According to trooper reports, vandals spray-painted graffiti on the exterior walls of the building, as well as sidewalks, doors, windows, three activity buses, an employee vehicle and the American flag.
Indeed, acts of vandalism affect us all, on many levels.
It hits us on an emotional level. Seeing things we care about intentionally damaged or destroyed hurts. A lot. The Nikiski community pours its heart and soul into its schools, and to see them senselessly trashed is painful.
It hits us on a psychological level. We lose our sense of faith and trust in those around us. What student from Nikiski won’t go to the next big event and wonder if the people who did this are somewhere in the crowd? What other person in the crowd might be sitting there wondering if their school or business or home or, as has been the case in Nikiski in the past, mailbox is next?
It hits us on a financial level, in several ways. There’s the cost to repair or replace damaged property. There’s the labor involved in completing clean-up and repairs.
Beyond that, there’s the financial cost to the community. There’s the obvious ones — public funds will have to go to cleaning up and repairing the vandalism, instead of other maintenance projects. There’s some not so obvious ones. Local businesses already do all they can to support our schools, and now, schools may need to ask them for even more.
Then there’s the long-term financial impact. The school district and borough administration now are obligated to consider additional security measures for their buildings. According to reports, the vandalism at Nikiski happened just after a security check; does this mean the district will need to hire a 24-hour-per-day, 7-day-a-week security agency? Security cameras were in place; will the district now feel like it has to invest in higher quality cameras or more expensive surveillance systems?
That’s more public money that should be used for other things.
We won’t ask why someone would inflict such pain the rest of our community. There’s no good answer to that question.
If there is a silver lining in such a situation, it is that such incidents here on the Peninsula tend to pull our communities closer together, rather than driving them further apart. In neighborhoods where vandalism has occurred, residents form community watches and get to know their neighbors a little better. Neighbors just being neighborly and checking on each other is one of the best deterrents of crime.
At Nikiski, the students have banded together to clean up the mess.
“Students concerned with what happened at their school pulled together and were outside cleaning up the building and taking ownership of the clean-up process,” Nikiski Middle-High Principal Dan Carstens said in a statement to the Clarion.
It is heartening to see students care enough about their school to want to clean it up, to build up their community.
We hope their efforts would serve as an example to those who would attempt to tear it down.
On another note, the shooting of a large brown bear in a residential neighborhood in Soldotna is a reminder that bruins and other wildlife have not settled down for their long winter’s nap just yet. In fact, they are actively looking for their last few meals before they head back to their dens, and they will take whatever they can get their paws on. Remember to keep yards clean from attractants. Keep garbage and animal feed stored in bear-proof containers or inside. Wait a couple more months before hanging out the birdfeeder — there’s still plenty of natural food available to our feathered friends. Fish waste or animal carcasses should be properly disposed. And if you’re venturing into the woods, which in this area, is just a few steps our front doors, remember to be bear-aware — go with a group, make lots of noise, carry bear spray or, if you’re competent and comfortable, a firearm. The best way to avoid negative human-bear interactions is to take the necessary steps to avoid them in the first place.