Bus fleet attack–not snow –called off classes

Published 12:46 am Tuesday, April 8, 2003

By By JOHN EBY / Dowagiac Daily News
It wasn't a surprise snow storm that kept Dowagiac schools from reopening after spring break Monday, but malicious damage which disabled the district's bus fleet.
The Cass County Sheriff's Office, under the direction of Sheriff Joseph M. Underwood Jr., reported that sometime between Friday, April 4, at 3:30 p.m. and Monday, April 7, at 4:30 a.m., all 12 of the school system's 14-bus fleet that were parked in the secure area at Dowagiac Union Schools Transportation Department, 29105 Pokagon St., were vandalized.
Transportation Supervisor Greg O'Toole reported to deputies that damage consisted mainly of wiring and fuel lines being cut.
This incident continues to be under investigation.
Any individuals with information are asked to call Cass County Community Policing's tip line at 1-800-462-9329 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-342-STOP.
Superintendent of Schools Larry Crandall Monday afternoon described the damage as "very malicious, more than a prank" and the most severe he can remember in 18 years as an administrator.
Two mechanics worked feverishly all day Monday to get eight of the buses up and running so school could reopen today for some 3,000 students.
Four buses remained idled pending additional damage assessment by outside diesel engine experts.
Edwardsburg, which has spring break this week, graciously offered Dowagiac a loan of four buses in the interim, Crandall said.
School officials are certain the damage occurred over the weekend because mechanics were on duty during spring break.
Since Dowagiac missed two days of school this winter and experienced a two-hour delay a third day, Crandall said his "preliminary guess" was that a make-up day will be required to offset the unexpectedly extended spring vacation.
He said the security of the gated bus lock-up area will be reviewed.
Vandalism previously hadn't been a problem.