Bit by bit, students aid demolition

June 07, 1994|By Lan Nguyen | Lan Nguyen,Sun Staff Writer

Wilde Lake High School will be torn down starting the day after school closes on June 17, but students already have begun the demolition.

In the last month, students have surreptitiously taken bits and pieces of the school as mementos, including doorknobs, bulletin boards and wall-mounted bells that announce the change of classes.

"Clocks are all gone," said Laura Benson, a 17-year-old junior. "Pencil sharpeners are gone."

And at last Friday's graduation exercises, Principal Bonnie Daniel noted in her speech to families and guests that the emergency exit signs had been ripped out of the auditorium walls by students who wanted a Wilde Lake keepsake.

Wilde Lake will be demolished to make way for a $20 million new school, scheduled to open in 1996. Students and staff will attend River Hill High School in Clarksville until construction is completed.

School officials are taking the disappearance of items from the Wilde Lake seriously and will have two uniformed police officers to patrol the school on the last day.

"It is considered theft," said school system spokeswoman Patti Caplan. "[The items] are property of the Department of Education."

At least two students have been suspended for up to a week for theft-related incidents, according to their parents, who complained about the severity of the punishment, saying the students would miss class time needed to review for finals in two weeks.

Despite a stern warning from Ms. Daniel to students over the school's public address system last Thursday morning, items have continued to disappear from the school.

Only moments after the principal's announcement, for example, two parents witnessed several students hurrying from the school with a bulletin board, messages still attached. The students quickly deposited the board in a car in the parking lot.

"It's not really like they want a piece, but it's the thrill of taking whatever they can," said 16-year-old Heather Vaughn, a sophomore who was not involved in the incident. "They take flags from the classrooms. They just go up there and pop them out. I personally don't want anything."

The thefts began early as spring break in March, when the letters "W," "L" and "H" in the "Wilde Lake High School" sign attached to the building were stolen.

School officials had wanted to save the letters to put on the new school, but that may not be possible because the letters may no longer be available from the manufacturer, Ms. Caplan said.

To help reduce the thefts, Wilde Lake's administrators have started a list for students to obtain mementos before the school is torn down. Students have signed up to take away such items as their locker numbers, music stands imprinted with the school's name and even wall speakers from the cafeteria.

Ashleah Walker, a junior, said she is eyeing a school bell, to remind her "of the original Wilde Lake," she said.

"I want a clock, but none's left," added Laura. "It reminds me of how I wanted to get out of class."

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