Clean up underway at Hilton Head Island Middle School after vandalism

Published: Aug. 15, 2023 at 6:22 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 15, 2023 at 11:16 PM EDT
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HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C (WTOC) - There were two incidents of vandalism in July at Hilton Head Island Middle School, which is currently under construction for renovations.

School district leaders say people entered the school and spray painted some areas, but the major cause of damage was spraying fire extinguishers across campus.

“You know I don’t even think the vandals realize how big of a problem they caused by what was done in here,” Robert Oetting said.

The company responsible for cleaning the damage valued the costs at 1.25 million, which was verified by the school district’s insurance. The district’s deductible is $50,000 of taxpayer money.

The main source for the high cleanup costs was the use of fire extinguishers. The chemicals from them entered air vents, spreading heavy metals throughout the building, which could not be cleaned with water.

“The best way I heard described is that it’s like having a fire without a fire. Because the material from the fire extinguishers got spread throughout the building because of the HVAC system.”

Cleaning the damage was rigorous, and it was completed ahead of schedule in less than two weeks. Oetting said the halls were lined with HEPA filters for vacuuming, the building was wiped three times over, and the air conditioning ducts and coils had to be cleaned.

All this went on during renovation construction. Getting commends everyone involved in cleanup.

“This building has been cleaned, cleaned again, and then cleaned again. So as far as cleanliness, it is in good shape and we’re ready for everyone to come back.”

Thanks to the quick cleanup, Hilton Head Island Middle School will welcome students back next Monday.