By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — St. Alphonsus Early Childhood Education Center, the former parish school and current home to a preschool and daycare program, was heavily damaged by vandals May 11.
Father Paul Appel, pastor of St. Alphonsus Parish, said most of the classrooms were ransacked and finger paint had been sprayed on the walls and floors. Obscenities were written on the chalkboards. All of the refrigerators were opened and the food was dumped out. Soda pop had been dumped on the floor in the cafeteria and the drawers were emptied, though nothing was stolen. Police believe that at one point an attempt was made to start a fire, but it “thankfully did not catch,” the pastor said.
St. Alphonsus Education Director Shelly McIntosh said she doesn’t know what would have prompted someone to cause the damage, though police currently have a suspect and the incident is under investigation. “They didn’t break anything, nothing was stolen; they basically just made a complete mess. I don’t know if they understand the severity of what they did,” she said.
Fr. Appel said witnesses in the neighborhood saw a number of grade-school-age children in the school building that day, but no one called the police since the building is frequently rented out by families and sports teams. “Seeing children running around is not uncommon,” he said.
The preschool and daycare were closed May 12, the day after the incident, and staff and a few volunteers cleaned up paint, picked up trash and rearranged ransacked items. “(They) did a wonderful job,” McIntosh said.
However, the carpets will need to be replaced and the gym floor needs more extensive repair. McIntosh said the education center’s insurance policy should cover damages. An estimate of damages is not known at this time.
She added that many parents and community members have expressed concern. “Everything is pretty much under control right now,” and the gestures of support have been meaningful. “It was nice. It tells us how much it means to them, I guess.”
In an unrelated incident, the Catholic Historical Center at St. Boniface in Clinton was vandalized in early May. Volunteers noticed two cracked windows and a cracked glass door on May 4, said board member Tom Koester. Because the center has liability-only insurance, the $500 repair cost is not covered. Anyone interesting in donating money for repairs can call Koester at (563) 503-0349 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.