In the largest theft of big-ticket items at a public school campus in years, thieves broke into eight classrooms at Leihoku Elementary in Waianae over the weekend and took 60 laptops — worth about $90,000 — along with several desktop computers.
“Over the years, we have not experienced a theft of this magnitude,” DOE spokeswoman Sandy Goya said Monday.
School officials were still completing an inventory of all the items stolen but said in addition to the laptops, several computers on teachers’ desks were taken.
The incident happened late Sunday or early Monday when thieves broke into eight classrooms at the school, removing louvered windows and cutting screens to gain entry, Principal Randall Miura said.
Police said Monday they had no suspects.
The laptops, which were about a year old, made up two “mobile computer labs” used for instruction and for the annual Hawaii State Assessment test.
Hawaii’s public school students in 10th and third through eighth grades will start taking the HSA in October, so Leihoku must now figure out how to make sure all of its children have access to computers to take the test.
The 910-student campus has about 60 laptops left.
“The loss of the computers is really going to hurt us,” Miura said. “It becomes a (computer) scheduling
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Miura, who is in his 18th year at Leihoku, addressed students Monday to tell them about the big theft and reassure them that they are safe.
“Leihoku is a home away from home for many of them,” Miura said, adding that he worries about the “emotional anxiety” the incident will have on children.
“It’s a violation of their personal space,” he said.
Miura said the theft also caused disruption, since work had to be completed Monday to repair classroom window areas where the thieves broke in. It was not immediately clear how much the repairs would cost.
Leihoku opened in 1980, and Miura said though there have been vandalism and small theft issues over the years, there has been “nothing like this.”
The theft comes as schools statewide increasingly are working to incorporate more computers into their classrooms.
Last year, DOE officials estimated there were more than 72,000 computers in Hawaii’s 286 public schools, up from about 44,000 in 2003.
Calvin Endo, treasurer and education committee chairman of the Waianae Coast Neighborhood Board, called the Leihoku Elementary theft a “disappointment.”
“It’s the kids. It’s their education,” he said.
Endo, who also works at Waianae High, said he believed the secondary school has a tracking system for its laptops so they can be retrieved if stolen, and wondered whether Leihoku had the same.
It was not immediately clear whether the Leihoku laptops, which are Apple MacBooks, also have some sort of an online system to help locate them.
Goya said the DOE is “actively researching products with asset tracking capacities” and trying to determine whether the Leihoku laptops can be found remotely.