St. Augustine.com

'Bored' kids likely behind fires at school

By BRYAN NOONAN
Staff Writer

Three pieces of cardboard were set aflame earlier this week beside the music wing at Marjorie K. Rawlings Elementary School in Ponte Vedra Beach, according to Deputy Casey Wright of the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office.

"It's summer, the kids aren't in school and you know how kids are," Wright said Friday. "The kids are bored, don't have anything else to do, that's my opinion."

The cardboard was believed to be ignited sometime between Monday afternoon and Wednesday afternoon, Wright said. The ashes were discovered by a maintenance worker Thursday.

"Pure and simple vandalism," said Rawlings Principal Pherbia Engdahl. "Little darlings wanted to burn down the music room, I assume."

Engdahl said a melted bucket was discovered Friday morning in the same spot as the cardboard fire. A custodian found it, but since there was no damage to the school, the sheriff's office was not contacted, Engdahl said.

Wright said the cardboard fire was an act of criminal mischief, not arson, since it was probably made by the hands of children or teenagers and it didn't appear their intent was to burn the school down.

Wright was called to the school Thursday after the maintenance worker discovered a patch of charred brick and damage to the stucco wall outside the music wing. Wright estimated the damages to be about $1,000 to the stucco wall. "There's foam inside of the stucco and they're going to have to cut that out and replace it."

Rawlings houses grades 3 through 5, so it's not likely one of her students started the fires, Engdahl said, adding, "It could be some of the children who live by there."

She said the school has had trouble with skateboarders trespassing to use tables and chairs on campus as ramps. Toward the end of the school year, deputies were called out nearly every day, she said.

"I don't know if it's the skateboarders that are mad at us," Engdahl said. "But you'd think after we called police several times they'd get the picture."

Wright said he has only been called out a few times to the schools in recent months. Overall, criminal mischief is not that bad in the area, he said.

"The last couple of calls I had gotten there, I made contact with two of them. They got no trespassing warnings from the Ponte Vedra School."

If the fire starters are found, and they do turn out to be kids, Engdahl said she would like to have a question answered. "Where are their mothers?"