Welders with a combined worth of approximately $8,500 were stolen from Berkeley High School (BHS) campus between the afternoon of October 8 and morning of October 11. Berkeley Police Department (BPD) is conducting an ongoing investigation into the matter. However, no arrests have been made and the welders still remain missing.
The welding machines belong to the digital design and fabrication class which is taught by Klea Bajala and Cordelia Millerwhite, as well as the BHS robotics team and BHS robotics classes.
Three of the welders are twenty years old and are each valued between five hundred and eight hundred dollars. The other two welders are newer and have a combined worth of approximately $6,500.
On Wednesday, October 6, the lock to the ceramics and digital design courtyard, located near the G-Gate, went missing.
All five welders, along with the ceramics kilns and spray paint, are kept within the courtyard, as it is used to store the “messy” equipment, according to BHS digital design student Daniel Dugatkin.
“They keep [the welders] out there for most of the day, and for the night because [the courtyard] is covered by a little roof,” said Dugatkin.
The courtyard itself has a gate, which is “always closed,” according to Dugatkin.
Upon learning that the courtyard lock was missing on Wednesday, October 6, Bajala checked with the robotics teacher, Dirk Wright, to see if he had taken the lock. Wright had not.
“[People assumed] it wasn’t a big issue,” said Dugatkin, “that someone probably just took off the lock. Nothing was missing yet.”
This wasn’t the first time the courtyard gate’s lock had gone missing. Earlier in August or September, the lock to the courtyard gate was stolen. This lock was quickly replaced by Millerwhite.
On Thursday, October 6, Dugatkin and two peers were the last to use the welding machines.
On Friday, October 7, a plasma cutter went missing from the courtyard. The lock to the courtyard gate had not yet been replaced or found. The welding machines were last seen at the end of the school day.
Monday, October 11 was a staff development day, so only teachers were on campus. The welding machines were reported missing by the digital design teaching assistant, Millerwhite, in the afternoon.
The cameras monitoring the G-Gate and courtyard gate were malfunctioning during the time period when the welders were taken, according to Dugatkin. No cameras are located inside the courtyard because BHS does not have surveillance cameras inside instructional spaces.
“It could have been that someone intentionally broke [the surveillance system], or it genuinely … just messed up,” said Dugatkin.
Consequently, no cameras were able to record the welders being removed from the courtyard.
On Tuesday, October 12, one day after the welders went missing, Millerwhite found the cut lock to the Courtyard gate in nearby bushes.
A week later, during a fire alarm, students were noticed riding the empty cart of the welding machines around the track, according to Millerwhite and Bajala.
While the school does have an insurance policy, the deductible for the insurance is greater than the cost of the welders.
“Filing an insurance claim would result in the school having to pay for the welders out of pocket, which … takes away from other expenditures, other equipment, and other supplies. [That] trickles down to costing more learning opportunities in other places,” said Millerwhite.
Bajala has checked Craigslist and Ebay to see if anyone has posted the welding machines for sale there but did not find them. Welding machines hold their values well for resale, according to Millerwhite.
The welding machines are part of the digital design curriculum, and the robotics team relies heavily upon them to manufacture their machines. Moreover, the robotics class uses the welding machines as part of their curriculum.
“[The welders] are part of the curriculum, more so in the spring semester, but we do have flex Thursdays, where students can learn other things in the space that aren’t a part of the curriculum currently,” said Bajala.
Millerwhite said that she has noticed staff, faculty, and students experiencing emotions of anger and confusion that stem from the theft of the welders, especially because BHS is running on public funding and has minimal money to spend on additional items to replace stolen ones.
Millerwhite said that the most significant effect from the welders being stolen is the “loss to learning.”
“Whoever stole the welders, they stole a lot more than just some welders and some equipment,” said Millerwhite. “They stole education from the students, they stole some feeling of security for the people in the area, and they stole a feeling of trust for what’s going on around campus,” Millerwhite concluded.