Teachers returning Monday morning to Nawayee Center School, a Native American alternative school for 7th-12th graders in south Minneapolis, were met with a heartbreaking sight.
Someone had broken in sometime after cleaning crews locked up last Tuesday, smashing floor-to-ceiling windows on the ground floor and laying waste to classrooms. Two large vans used to deliver students to school, their part-time jobs, and an annual ricing field trip to northern Minnesota had vanished. Beautiful paintings that students had been working on all semester were spray-painted over. The school hamster had been abducted from its cage.
“We’ve been trying to get a washer and dryer here for a long time. A lot of kids here are homeless so they needed something to wash their clothes,” said Jessica Nadeau, the school's grants and development director. “We finally got one donated to us and it’s just covered in gang graffiti now. It’s still useful, but it’s just an awful thing for our kids to see.”
The cleaning crew had forgotten to set the alarm when they left on Tuesday night, Nadeau says, so no one knows exactly when the vandalism occurred. There are no security cameras inside the school.
As teachers shuttled students down the street to the American Indian Center in their own vehicles, staff worked all Monday morning to set classrooms back in order and take stock of the damage.
Everyone is wound up, Nadeau says. The Phillips neighborhood has seen its fair share of crime, but most people recognize and respect the school for what it is.
“It bums me out,” she says. “We’re a nonprofit. We’re held together by scraps. When you’re in that position and you’re kicked while you’re down, it’s hard.”
Nawayee has set up a GoFundMe fundraiser to replace school supplies. You can donate here.