Police recovered the stolen van on Long Island and returned it to NCCL in late August.

Police in New York recovered a stolen van belonging to Newark Center for Creative Learning abandoned on the side of a road on Long Island last month. They returned the nine-seat Ford Transit to NCCL, a private K-8 school on Phillips Avenue, just in time for the school year.

The van was stolen after a break-in on July 7. An unidentified burglar smashed the gym window with a brick to enter the building, took a snack from the cafeteria and stole a set of keys before making off in the van, according to NCCL Administrative Coordinator Lauren Evans.

“They took every key – to the school, to the vans, to everything. And then they took that van, they took one van. So we had to get the entire school rekeyed,” Evans said. “It was the weirdest break-in ever.”

According to Evans, the van’s E-Zpass records helped police track it up to New York before the information stopped. Her best guess is that the burglar drove it up to Long Island until it ran out of gas. There is no damage to the van, although it was coated in fingerprint dust used by police in an effort to identify the burglar. It was returned to the school in late August.

Newark Police confirmed that an investigation into the burglary is ongoing.

In a normal year, field trips are a regular part of the NCCL student experience. Evans said that an NCCL student who attends from kindergarten through eighth grade would attend about 100 field trips in total. This year, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, students will be limited to local walking field trips and other hands-on learning opportunities.

“We won’t be using the vans until the pandemic has passed us,” Evans said.

Still, she added, “We’re glad to have it back.”

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