South Carolina School's Bus Yard Hit by Vandals

Bus riders at Conway area schools should make it to school on time today, a day after vandalism of all the buses at the Conway High School bus lot caused about 5,600 students to be tardy for class.

Vandals broke windows in all 56 buses parked at the Conway High School bus lot over the weekend.

It was the most extensive vandalism incident in recent memory, Horry County Schools spokeswoman Teal Britton said, and included damage to a driver's education vehicle and three golf carts used by Conway High School's athletics department. A storage facility was broken into as well.

"It was a mess. Some windshields were completely broken out, while others were cracked with something on the front of buses," said Lenny Hall of Riteway Auto Glass, who handles some of the district's glass needs. "I wasn't expecting that phone call first thing in the morning and when district transportation chief Jim Wright said all of them, I thought he was joking.

"I expected one or two windshields, but we had 72 windows, and the problem with that is no one has enough glass to get them done."

Each day, about 19,000 Horry County students take buses to school. Of the 56 buses in the Conway lot, 44 are used for school runs; the rest for other activities. Wright learned during a 5 a.m. call Monday that the window damage meant he needed to find other buses for 5,600 students.

To get the children to school, offic ials rerouted buses from other areas, and doubled up and shortened some routes to get students to school. Most students made it to school within an hour of the opening bell.

Officials plan to do the same today and do not expect delays.

It is unclear how much the window replacement will cost, but officials will have estimates later this week.

"Not only was this act senseless and not only did it disrupt school, it's incredibly costly to those of us who pay taxes," Britton said. "This is not a prank; this is a crime."

About 10 buses remained unrepaired Monday afternoon, officials said. Conway police are searching for the vandals, who might have been caught on school security cameras, but declined to provide further details about their investigation.

"Vandalism in itself is not something that happens every day, but through the course of the year, you do have a few incidents of it," Britton said. "This is the largest scale of vandalism that we have had during her 12 years on staff ... because this situation is every bus that was back there was hit, so we certainly are not immune to it."

"We've got no idea what would cause anybody to do what they did," Wright said. "We don't know what kind of tool they used to do this."

Hall said he's typically called four times a year for broken windshields or windows. He spent part of Monday calling throughout the state to find additional glass to complete replacements.

Previous incidents of vandalism include a handful of bus tires being slashed last year at Conway and Socastee high schools and two cars in 2003 being rigged to ram into Socastee High School without a driver.

Both of those incidents happened in the fall.

"There haven't been many major vandalism issues for us," Britton said. "I don't associate any particular pattern."