OCEAN PARK — A local elementary school received an unexpected outdoor lounge recently when a group of local juveniles moved some classroom furniture to the roof of one of its buildings.
The incident took place on the weekend of July 18-19 when three youths, whose identities are being withheld because of their age, reportedly skateboarded to John Muir Elementary School and moved a sofa, television and DVD player onto the roof.
The adolescents, who are not students of the school, have since admitted responsibility and will most likely be charged with misdemeanor vandalism, Officer Edgar Navarro, the school resource officer for the Santa Monica Police Department, said.
The trio were skateboarding on the John Muir and Santa Monica Alternative School House (SMASH) campuses, which are connected, when they discovered an unlocked classroom. Feeling exhilarated from being in a classroom without adult supervision, the students allegedly went about campus finding two to three more unlocked rooms, eventually encountering a roof on which there were several chairs.
It was then they decided to make a “clubhouse,” removing pieces from the classrooms to create their outdoor lounge, police said. An abandoned sofa found on a nearby street corner was added to complete the look.
“They didn’t think they had committed a crime,” Navarro said. “There was never an intention to steal anything, it was to make a little clubhouse.”
The youths then returned to the classrooms and began playing with supplies and emptying the extinguishers, creating a mess, after which they realized that they had done something wrong, Navarro said. They also entered a science lab and experimented with various concoctions, combining vinegar with baking soda.
A custodian discovered the rearranged classrooms the following Monday and notified authorities.
Given the nature of the crime and evidence left behind, officials soon suspected that students, possibly graduates of the school, were involved. Navarro created several fliers and enlisted the help of the explorers, who are junior police officers, between the ages of 14 and 19, to canvass the surrounding neighborhood for information.
The next day, he received a call from the school principals notifying that three parents had brought their children to admit their involvement in the crime. The parents said they pieced everything together after overhearing their children talking about building a clubhouse.
Tristan Komlos and Jessica Rishe, the principals of John Muir and SMASH, respectively, could not be reached for comment.
There were no damage from the incident, just some clean-up in the aftermath, Navarro said.
He stressed that the parties involved are “good kids,” pointing out that they even moved a reptile from one of the classrooms where they emptied an extinguisher to protect it from the fumes.
“They were honest about everything and took accountability for their actions,” he said. “I think they just made a mistake.”