by Brendan Sample

As the J.S. Jenks Academy for the Arts and Sciences begins its summer vacation, one of the primary challenges for the administration will be to find a way to overcome losing more than $20,000 worth of supplies in a recent string of robberies.

By June 7, the stolen supplies came to include 46 Lego robotics sets, three wireless microphone transmitters, a Canon digital SLR camera, an electric guitar amplifier and other pieces of video equipment.

Among various other purposes that the stolen materials stolen served at Jenks, the robotics equipment was meant to be used to launch the program throughout the entire school when classes resume. Other supplies taken centered on the school’s art and music departments.

Though the thefts were realized on June 7, the administration believes that there were multiple robberies carried out over the course of several days beforehand. Many of the materials had been stored in the library, so a camera was installed on a library shelf to potentially catch any returning burglars over the following weekend. The footage did not show anyone attempting to or otherwise entering the library, however, which led to contacting the police on June 13.

“Because there were so few things missing initially, people just thought materials were getting misplaced,” said Jenks principal Mary Lynskey. “Nobody thought it was theft at first because we’ve never had any instances of theft.”

As far as why this specific assortment of materials was taken, there does not appear to be any particular correlation known at this time. One potential reason could be that none of the equipment had GPS trackers, as opposed to the school’s Chromebook laptops, which were not stolen.

Initial talks with police officers have not yielded much hope in recovering the stolen items, as they will be focusing their efforts on checking pawn shops. Moving forward, the administration will be focusing its efforts on ways to prevent this from happening again.

An order has been put in with the building’s engineer to replace the locks, and leadership will be ensuring that all cameras monitoring Jenks are working properly at all times. In addition to visitors needing to sign in and out when they visit the school, that process will also be extended to certain pieces of valuable equipment. Any keys that grant access to the building and/or specific rooms will also be rounded up and accounted for, as there are people with access to the building that do not work directly at Jenks.

Losing over $20,000 worth of material would be unfortunate for any institution, but the specific circumstances have made it especially frustrating for Jenks. In addition to having to deal with this issue over summer break, the robbery was not quite bad enough to qualify for the School District of Philadelphia’s insurance.

“Our hands feel tied in a number of ways because it’s the end of the year and the district only has insurance for ‘catastrophic’ events [natural disasters],” Lynskey said.

Despite the loss, Jenks will still be looking to press forward in preparation for the new school year. Barring the return of the stolen materials, the Friends of J.S. Jenks, a community support group for the school, have set up a GoFundMe page to raise $20,000 to replace everything that was taken. While the administration is hoping to have enough to get everything back, the priority is the robotics equipment, which was set to get the most use in the coming school year.

For more information on the robbery and to donate to the fundraiser, visit www.gofundme.com/replace-stolen-stemarts-supplies.

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