TUCSON, Ariz. — A local elementary school's greenhouse and aquatics center is now back up and running. In July, vandals targeted the facilities at Manzo Elementary School, causing thousands of dollars in damage.
After the vandalism, donations poured in from the community wanting to help rebuild. The donations totaled to be more than $10,000.
Fish were thrown on the ground, pierced with pitch forks, crops destroyed, and the water tank was plugged up with entire bags of food. It took about three months to rebuild.
"It was a mess, to say the least. All of the fish were dead, there were hundreds of fish. The water had turned into this kind of oatmeal soup. It smelled awful," said Blue Baldwin, Manzo Elementary School's ecology program coordinator.
The vandalism happened over summer break; Fourth of July weekend. The mess wasn't completely cleaned up by the time school started in August. Baldwin said the students returning to school were shocked and upset.
"They couldn't wrap their heads around why anyone would hurt this thing that they get to participate in on an almost daily basis. They feed the fish, they harvest the plants from these grow beds. This is their place," said Baldwin.
But then the students were able to see the rebuild effort and take part in it.
"You know, in the end its good for them to see how resilient we are and it's a lesson of resiliency," said Baldwin.
Baldwin said the school's aquatics system had been running for years, being functional but needing a lot of TLC. She said in the midst of the hurt and damage caused by the vandalism, there was a silver lining: the chance to rebuild from scratch with the donations given to the school.
"We replaced all of the grow beds, we rebuilt all of the plumbing, we got a new crop of fish. We cleaned out the beds entirely and started fresh with the crops. And so now the system is more robust than it was before," said Baldwin.
Construction and clean up officially ended mid-September. Now with everything fresh and new, Baldwin says this new system should be up and running for years to come.