By Colin MacGillivray
STRATHEWEN Primary School students and staff have been left heartbroken after a trailer containing 20 bicycles was stolen from the school last week.
Thieves gained access to the school grounds after cutting a lock on the gates, making off with the trailer some time between 5.30pm on Sunday, October 11 and 8.15am on Monday, October 12.
School principal Jane Hayward said the school’s 42 students were ‘mystified’ at why someone would steal their trailer.
“They’re all really saddened and a bit distressed that someone would come onto the school site and steal something that is part of what we use for our bike education program and our camps,” she said.
“I drove into the school ground past the open gates, and I had to pause and have a look.
“Strathewen is a very quiet area with low crime, so I had to stop and let it register.
“We’re just a small school, so we look after our treasures. I’m incredibly disappointed.”
The trailer was donated to the school by the Rotary Club of Kinglake Ranges following the Black Saturday bushfires of 2009, which destroyed large parts of Strathewen including the school.
Ms Hayward said she was saddened to see a symbol of community generosity stolen.
“It’s very special that it was the Rotary Club of Kinglake Ranges that had our trailer made for us,” she said.
“That’s a lot of fundraising and a lot of egg and bacon rolls sold to provide us with something great.
“You work so hard to provide great things within a school and you have groups like Rotary really stepping up and helping and working with us. Then to lose something like that is very sad.”
Leading Senior Constable Paul Kemezys, of Hurstbridge police, appealed for anyone who might have seen the trailer, described as large and blue with a distinctive Rotary symbol on the side, to contact police.
He said a lack of CCTV footage at the school and the fact offenders had left no forensic evidence at the scene left police with few leads.
“Rotary went to extensive and exhaustive efforts to raise the funds to purchase the trailer after the Strathewen community was decimated by the fires and the school was totally burnt down and later rebuilt,” he said.
“The bicycles were also donated to the school by Point Cook Primary School.
“It’s not a good look, stealing from a small school like this, particularly after they had to rebuild after the fires.
“If anyone has seen the trailer or knows where it might be, please get in contact with police. We just want to get the trailer and the bikes to give back to the school.”
Ms Hayward said she remained hopeful the trailer would be found and returned to the school.
“It’s quite a distinct trailer. When it was towed out of here I’m sure people would have noticed it,” she said.
“I’m hopeful that someone has seen it and can let us know. That would be wonderful.
“If people see something suspicious, schools are vulnerable because we’re not around overnight and things like that.
“It’s important for people to keep an eye out if they see something strange happening, not just in our school but all schools.”