A vehicle sits in the front lobby of Philomath High School following a prank that occurred on the evening of June 7. (Photo provided by Philomath High School via Weekly Warrior newsletter)

Rumors of an out-of-control senior prank that caused tens of thousands of dollars to Philomath High School turned out to be unfounded, school officials and police confirmed Friday.

The individuals did gain access to the school and pulled off several pranks, including getting a vehicle in through the front entrance and leaving it in the lobby. But there was no damage associated with getting the car into the school with double doors that can easily be opened up wide enough for such an undertaking.

The incident took place Wednesday at approximately 9 p.m. at some point following the Class of 2023 honors convocation, PHS Principal Mark Henderson said.

Lt. Dave Gurski of the Philomath Police Department said there was no damage to the school that would rise to the level of criminal mischief.

“There was a door lock that had some Super Glue in it and a student admitted to that damage and agreed to pay for it and that’s already been repaired and fixed,” Gurski said.

The police are looking into another matter related to students being inside the school but preferred to not release details with the investigation ongoing.

Superintendent of Schools Susan Halliday admitted that some of the acts went beyond what she would define as a prank.

“As senior pranks go, we had a few situations taken beyond the realm of prank into some damage,” Halliday said. “The dictionary definition of ‘prank’, according to Oxford Languages, states, ‘a practical joke or mischievous act.’ Balloons and cups of water on the stairway can be fun pranks. Silly string on walls and windows and oil on door handles move things beyond the realm of acceptable pranks.”

Henderson said the car was removed and the school cleaned up by 9 or 10 Thursday morning.

“They were able to get a car inside the school without creating a bunch of damage and they were able to remove the car,” Gurski said. “It sounds like there were some streamers and toilet paper and things like that and some balloons that were blown up and taken into people’s offices but I think most of it was really pretty harmless.”

The PHS weight room was among the locations TP’d by pranksters. (Photo provided by Philomath High School via Weekly Warrior newsletter)

In addition, seniors on their last day of school Wednesday after all classes had ended dumped papers off the balcony. Students with the help of some staff members cleaned up the mess. The school’s newsletter also mentioned that students camped out in the principal’s front yard.

“Generally speaking, the pranks themselves didn’t cause any damage to the school other than the lock … so there was no loss with regards to damages or anything like that to the school that haven’t been paid for already,” Gurski said. “Thankfully, it wasn’t too serious.”

Halliday did say that it was “disheartening that seemingly appropriate actions went awry in some areas. At the same time, we acknowledge great appreciation for those students who helped to clean up the school.”

A lot of alleged incidents involving significant damage had been circulating on social media.

“We had heard that pipes had burst and there was $20,000 worth of damage and there was a support between the double doors that was damaged and it was going to be $15,000 and so we didn’t know what to expect when we got there,” Gurski said, adding that it was obviously a situation with stories getting exaggerated and then publicly shared online.

The high school does have an operational video recording system in place, which is helping with the part of the investigation that is ongoing.

Henderson mentioned that PHS is making plans to make sure access to the school will not be a possibility next year.

Brad Fuqua has covered the Philomath area since 2014 as the editor of the now-closed Philomath Express and currently as publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He has worked as a professional journalist since 1988 at daily and weekly newspapers in Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota, Arizona, Montana and Oregon.