LONG BEACH -- School officials have been left to scrounge for any kind of financial support they can muster after two teenagers allegedly caused upwards of $40,000 worth of damage to the school.
Police said two boys, a 13-year-old and a 16-year-old, confessed to vandalizing the Long Beach High School girls weight room and storage shed during winter break and then the teachers' lounge Jan. 20.
The school's staff has made an effort to clean what they can, but the visuals of the vandals' winter-break crime spree are still vivid.
In the weight room, plenty of the maroon paint from three 5-gallon buckets still stains the padded floors, weight-training equipment and walls. Several sneakers are stuck in a pool of hardened paint in the weight room closet. The vandals ruined a treadmill with the paint and destroyed a laptop computer in the weight room.
"This looks great compared to how it did," Principal Peter Dabbs said as he stepped over dried clumps of paint. "It was all over the mirrors and the floor."
The storage room is still marred with maroon graffiti. Dabbs said rye grass seeds were strewn throughout the room and dumped into the lawn mower's gas tank -- which workers have been able to fix.
More than three weeks after the first vandalism, the vending machine in the teachers' lounge was broken into. A surveillance camera was able to lead authorities to the teens.
Dabbs said he has been repeatedly asked why he doesn't force the parents of the students -- who attend LBHS and Harper McCaughan Elementary -- to pay for the damage.
Dabbs is limited to what the school's policy on vandalism and destruction of school property will allow, but said he couldn't elaborate further.
Police Chief Wayne McDowell said both students are facing two counts of burglary of a business and one charge of felony malicious mischief.
The girls softball, volleyball, soccer and basketball teams use the weight room. Softball coach Scott Zink described the facility as one of the best in the state prior to the December incident. Now, it's empty while the school decides how to properly clean the mess.
"We're at ground zero," Dabbs said. "Due to recent cuts in educational funding, there's just not extra money to spend -- especially at a small district like ours."
Zink said the incident has been especially frustrating, considering their season is just beginning.
"It's frustrating, especially when it's people from your own community," he said. "Everyone kind of already knows the situation the Long Beach School System is in, so for it to be someone in our own community, it hurts a little bit."
Dabbs said a local chemical company saw a recent television report on the vandalism and has offered its assistance to remove the paint.
"They think they may have some sort of solution that will help pull up the paint, but we won't know for sure until next week."
He said the school has received several other calls offering assistance.
McDowell said the kids are acquaintances and that the 13-year-old has been in trouble before.
About the same time the teachers' lounge was broken into, McDowell said, the 13-year-old burglarized a car at Winn-Dixie and is facing an additional charge related to the incident.