Kids at the Start Smart Childcare Centre will be bound indoors this week, the first of summer, as their vandalized bus is repaired.
On Tuesday, staff arrived at the preschool and daycare in downtown Maple Ridge at 6 a.m. to find that the bus had been extensively damaged overnight.
The doors had been kicked in, the seats damaged to the point where most of them will have to be replaced. The arm rests on the seat were bent, so they stick into the aisle, and the seats and interior walls of the bus were written on with permanent marker.
Both side mirrors were smashed, and the first-aid kit was torn apart.
“The staff members were really upset, and they were shocked,” said staff member Kelsey Fraser. “It’s a kid’s bus that we use every day.”
Damage was in the thousands of dollars.
The bus will be repaired by ICBC for the $500 deductible, but in the meantime, the school is without transportation for approximately two weeks.
Start Smart uses the bus for multiple monthly field trips, weekly gymnastics classes as well as school dropoffs and pickups. Its regulars include toddlers as young as two, up to kids in Grade 4.
Two field trips have been cancelled this week alone, and the situation has staff scrambling to arrange rides for a toddler trip next week.
“These field trips are very important to the children and it is very hard for them to understand why they can’t go,” said Fraser.
There are no suspects, but Fraser does not thing young children could have done the damage.
“They had to be pretty strong to pull the armrests out the way they did,” she said.
If cancelled field trips aren’t enough of a headache for the staff, summer camp starts in just over a week. Two weekly field trips are planned. There is no guarantee the bus will be fixed in time.
Fraser said the $500 that would have gone toward refurbishing the outdoor play area is instead going to the deductible. The centre has been doing fundraisers for that project, which has been set back.
Not only are the staff and parents devastated, but so are the children.
“Some of the older kids just couldn’t understand why anyone would do that.”