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School's Century-Old Stained Glass Broken During Computer Heist, Police Say

By Emily Frost | June 18, 2014 7:49am
 The school was broken into this past weekend and dozens of iPads, computers and laptops were stolen. 
St. Gregory the Great Burglary
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UPPER WEST SIDE — A century-old Catholic school had 45 iPads, eight laptops and five desktop computers stolen during a break-in this weekend that also saw the destruction of "irreplaceable" stained-glass windows, police and the principal said. 

The burglary occurred sometime over the weekend at St. Gregory the Great on West 90th Street after a graduation ceremony Friday for the K-8 school's eighth-grade class, school officials and police said.

The thief or thieves smashed through 100-year-old stained-glass windows to access the pricey devices, more than half of which had been donated to the school, authorities said.

Parents learned of the break-in on Monday when their children returned to school, said mother Nathalie Hornillos. 

"There’s a sense of being violated," Hornillos said. "It was mean... It feels very personal."

On Sunday at about 4 p.m., an employee walking from the rectory to the school's third floor through a connected passageway noticed that a glass window to a third-grade classroom was broken, principal Donna Gabella said.

The employee continued down to the second floor, where she saw that glass covering the door to the principal's office was also smashed and 45 iPad minis being stored inside were gone, she said

"They knew where they were going," Gabella said. 

Across the hall from her office, a stained-glass window with the faces of St. Patrick and St. Anthony was smashed at the bottom to provide access to the computer room, she said. Five older desktop Mac computers and eight 2013 Macbook Pro laptops locked in the room were taken, she said. 

Capt. Marlon Larin of the 24th Precinct confirmed that a window in the back of the first-floor lobby was broken, in addition to those on the second and third floors. He said an investigation into the break-in was ongoing. 

The 45 iPad minis were part of a new initiative started by the school in September to integrate technology into the math and reading curriculum, Gabella said. Thirty of the iPads were bought with a donation from an individual, she noted. 

"We don't have a lot to begin with," Gabella said of the 180-student school, which has an annual tuition is $4,100 and draws students from all over the city.

The school aims to ensure every student has an iPad as part of its mission to teach at the level of other private schools with far more resources, the principal said. 

"It was really disheartening coming in Monday," she said, noting that it had been a great year, with classes coming to a close this Friday.

The school has two security cameras at the front of the building facing the street, but Gabella said they may consider adding more throughout the building.

Officers at the 24th Precinct will return next week to do a "security walk-through," looking for possible weak spots where someone could break in, she added. 

Fran Davies, a spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of New York, said she believes the break-in happened Friday night but would not comment on whether someone connected to the school community is suspected. In addition to the broken windows, the front door's lock was also damaged, she said. 

"We’ll be working to repair and replace the items that were damaged or stolen," Davies said.