Former alternative school vandalized weeks before reopen - WFXG FOX54 Augusta - Your News One Hour Earlier

Former alternative school vandalized weeks before reopen

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"My heart just dropped," says Ron Burton, remembering when he first saw the damage vandals did to his school. "I mean, my heart just...I couldn't believe it."

Burton owns the Watkins St. property, and for years, he operated it as Hope Christian School, an alternative private school for at-risk youth.

After closing the school for two years due to budget woes, Burton hoped to reopen the building this month.

Then, the building was turned upside down by vandals.

"Every drawer was opened. Everything they could possibly pull out or spray paint, they got," he says, surveying the damage.

Burton says he believes the vandals ransacked the building over a period of days leading up to Christmas.

Fire extinguisher dust covers furniture. Empty spray paint cans and piles of paper litter the center room.

It's the aftermath Burton is left to clean up.

He says he feels violated.

"We're not the bad guys," he says. "Don't do this to us."

He's now taken his own measures to stop the unwelcome guests.

Messages reading "You are being watched," and "You are on camera," have been written outside.

But one of the measures Burton regrets.

He used to leave the back gates open, allowing neighborhood kids to play on the playground and basketball court.

But Burton admits that's probably how the vandals gained access to the building, and now he's locked the gates.

"We've got to close it," he says. "I mean, I'd rather not, but that's what's going on."

The Richmond Co. Sheriff's Office is investigating the break-in, but Burton still isn't sure the total cost of the damage.

"We don't even know what's missing," he says. "We had a lot of tools and different things. It's like, 'Oh that's missing. That's missing.'"

But he adds the vandalism hasn't shaken his resolve to re-open his school and continue helping kids.

"We're in it for the long haul," Burton says. "We're committed to this community. We're going to have some setbacks, and this is one of them."

Burton still believes he will re-open the school, and it may happen very soon.

He hopes to hold the first classes the week of MLK Day.

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