Middle school is hard enough as it is, but that teeming cauldron of hormones and insecurity got a little harder over the Thanksgiving holiday for the students of Visitacion Valley Middle School after someone cut a hole through a school fence, scaled an exterior storage unit, broke through a skylight, and then proceeded to steal 26 mountain bikes used for the students' biking program. But what might have remained a hard lesson for the students is now being turned into a demonstration of community support, as two businesses have stepped up and offered to replace the stolen rides.
The theft, occurring sometime over the holiday weekend, totally cleaned out the school's mountain bike inventory, originally numbering 38, as the school had already been burglarized of 12 bicycles in May of 2014.
School Principal Joe Truss learned of the burglary yesterday, and told The Chronicle what the news would mean to his students.
“It’s devastating," said Truss. "It’s a hard time of the year. They come to school for a little bit of solace, a little bit of fun, a little but of adventure," he continued. "They were definitely looking forward to riding these bikes and doing something fun.”
At $13,000, the total value of the the 38 mountain bikes, Visitacion Valley Middle School is unable to afford replacements. With that in mind, Truss set up a GoFundMe campaign in the hope of raising the funds.
"These bikes allow our students from Visitacion Valley to explore the beautiful McLaren Park and be more active," Truss wrote on the page. "Many of our students rarely leave their neighborhood in the South East of SF. Also, going into the holidays, having something taken away, hurts student morale and motivation."
After learning of the theft, the owner of a nearby Grocery Outlet, Eric Liittschwager, stepped up and offered to replace the 26 bikes. Recology has followed suit and offered to replace the 12 stolen last year.
“It’s a tough neighborhood,” Liittschwager told the Chronicle. “When things like this happen, that’s just a call for us to step up, be a part of the community. That’s what we do.”
In the end, Truss sees this a positive lesson for his students.
"Now we can tell kids that something bad happened, but the neighborhood pulled together."