PUTNEY >> Just two weeks before the first day of school, Putney Central School was burglarized.
According to PCS Principal Herve Pelletier, two white males estimated to be between 18 and 21 years old were caught on video surveillance collecting guitars, amps, laptop computers and other items on Saturday morning. The men were caught on film around 2:15 a.m. Saturday and stayed inside the building until after 4 a.m.
Pelletier said the footage shows the males placing some of the items in one spot of the building and then later hauling some of the items out of the school via a trash can that both men transported outside. After they stole several valuable items totaling an estimated $10,000 to $15,000, according to Pelletier, two young males in swim trunks were seen outside near the playground.
"I think this is really despicable when people take advantage of schools," said Pelletier. "Taxpayers work hard to provide schools with high quality equipment and for people to come in the middle of the night and steal a couple things is despicable."
It was not until Monday morning that the staff at PCS knew a break-in had occurred. The head of the maintenance team realized items from his tool box were missing, which lead him to look around for further missing items. He then spotted empty laptop cases and other items out of place, realizing the school had indeed been burglarized. The video surveillance helped to confirm this.
Pelletier noted that during the video one of the males moves to exit through one of the gym doors, but then the other male corrects him and instructs him not to.
"I am not sure these guys knew the building. They're unlikely to be former students, at least I hope," said Pelletier.
Around 5:30 a.m. two suspects were spotted outside of the PCS playground in swim shorts with towels around their necks, allegedly after they had taken a dip in the town pool located behind the campus. Pelletier said "it's absolutely the same two guys."
Pelletier said he is unsure how the two males entered the building. But the surveillance video revealed that they had been walking around with flashlights for several hours, stealing a number of laptops, seven or eight guitars for children, amps, a toolkit used for the school's bike program — all while feeling "pretty cocky about it," said Pelletier.
The break-in is under investigation by Vermont State Police and anyone with additional information should contact Trooper Paul Dean at 802-722-4600. Pelletier said he and other staff are still reviewing the inventory and recording missing items. However, it may be challenging to detect how many items are missing in the music department, as the new and incoming music teacher Josh Fields said he was getting ready to create an updated inventory this week.
Fields said the loss of the guitars and amps will greatly affect the middle school aged students.
"The middle schoolers will really take the heat; they're often going through a tough time in life and really need music to adapt to them," said Fields. "Middle schoolers tend to start rebelling in little ways and gravitate away from western classical music and tradition, and you need to give them things they want to hear, you need to make it on their level. That's the really great thing about rock music."
Without the electric guitars, Fields said some of the music classes may resemble what goes on for the pre-k through fifth grade music classes.
"This school has a strong musical tradition and it's unfortunate to start off the new year with a new music teacher without the same stuff as we had last year," said Fields. "I'm really excited to be a part of the team here and we're going to have a good year despite this. "
Pelletier notes that there have been several break-ins in Putney over the last few months and he feels this one at the school not only affects the students and staff but the community as well.
"We live in a community where trust is highly valued. This breaks that trust. There have been a number of house break-ins over the past couple of months, I'm not sure it's the same two guys, but it makes people uneasy," Pelletier said.
He further noted that nothing appears to be broken or damaged and there are no signs of "forced" entry at this point.
Pelletier posted on the PCS Facebook page that the school is "seeking assistance in identifying these two guys, one of whom is wearing a 'Maiden Voyage' t-shirt.'"
Maddi Shaw can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 275