The school district's iPad program took a hit last Saturday when thieves broke into a classroom at Pacific Elementary School and took 59 of the electronic devices used to instruct fifth graders.
The theft was discovered Sunday by a school staff member said Manhattan Beach Unified School District Dr. Mike Matthews. Surveillance video shows two subjects carrying large bags Saturday around 4:20 a.m., said MBPD Officer Stephanie Martin, leading police to believe that's when the crime took place.
The darkness at that time and fog make it difficult for the suspects to be described, however, Martin said they believe the two suspects are male and that a third subject, a female, may be involved.
"It's incredibly sad and unfortunate for our students," said Matthews, adding that staff worked hard to prepare for Monday when students returned to campus.
"Our maintenance department did a great job and the teachers had to make a lot of changes to be ready for the day," he said.
iPads are used for instruction at MBUSD's middle school and all five elementary schools. "We're reevaluating our storage mechanisms," he said, "and continue to look at how we can make the iPads as secure as possible."
Replacements for the stolen iPads have been ordered, Matthews said, and MBUSD's insurance will be used to cover the theft. The iPads were donated to MBUSD after being purchased through the PTA.
The iPads used at Pacific and the other elementary schools are school property that remains on campus, he said.
A classroom window was smashed so the thieves could gain entrance, said Martin, and then an adjoining classroom was accessed through an interior door. The theft was accomplished by using "bolt cutters to get into secure areas," said Matthews. The iPads were stored in interior locked metal cabinets, said Martin.
"Even at Pacific, we had the iPads quite secured," said Matthews, "but one of the issues is they were in a classroom where people could break a window [to get inside]."
Pacific Principal Kim Linz emailed parents/guardians of the school's students Sunday night to tell them of the incident. In her email, she wrote that she would visit all fifth grade classrooms on Monday and that fifth grade teachers would debrief the students so they felt safe about school. Counselors were also made available.
The fifth grade students who use iPads predominantly work using cloud-based apps, Matthews said, and the materials "can be gained again when they [students] log in."
After learning the devices had been stolen, the district remotely locked the iPads. Matthews said the biggest concern was not with any information that was on an iPad, but rather on how to prevent them from being stolen.
"We're very proud of our iPad program," he said, noting that iPads are the way of educating children in the 21st century.
The loss is estimated to be around $25,000.