It took 17 year for special day class teacher Darlene Pierson to accumulate the collection of three-wheel bicycles for her students with disabilities at Sherwood Elementary School, but in just one weekend nearly all of them were stolen.
The theft was discovered by a janitor early Monday morning when he noticed a lock had been cut on a gate that surrounds the school at 819 E. Rumble Road. From there he saw a second lock was cut on a gated area in front of Piersons classroom where she stored the bicycles.
Eleven of the 13 special day class bicycles had been taken; nine three-wheel bicycles worth about $400 a piece and two specialty bicycles for the severally handicapped that cost as much as $2,500. Two of the latter remained. Pierson estimates the total value of the 11 stolen bicycles is $8,500.
The Sylvan School District purchased five of the three-wheel bicycles for the special day class students, who are in third through fifth grade, but Pierson and her husband purchased the rest.
They started buying the bicycles around the time she started teaching the special day class 17 years ago.
She said most of her students will never be able to drive or even ride a two-wheel bicycle because of their disabilities but nearly all of them can ride the three-wheel bikes or the specialty bikes. Learning to ride them is crucial for their transportation needs as adults, Pierson said. Every Tuesday and Thursday the children would ride them for their adaptive physical education class.
Its heartbreaking, Pierson said. To have someone decide they needed them more than we did irritates me.
She said some of the helmets for the bicycles were found in an alley west of the school so the thief or thieves would have had to wheel them all the way across the playground and a large field to get them there.
Maybe someone somewhere out there saw them, Pierson said. My bikes cant be seen from the street so whoever took them knew they were there and has been on campus before.
She hopes anyone with information about the bicycle thefts will call Modesto police. People can also call Crime Stoppers at (209) 521-4636 or send a text message to 274637. Just type TIP704 along with your message.