November 29, 2001 11:00 pm

By T.L. Petersen

Observer Staff Writer

Stolen items valued at more than $8,000 were taken from La Grande High Schools alternative classroom building and a school staff member between late Tuesday and early Wednesday, high school principal Doug Potter said this morning.

As difficult as the physical loss is, Potter said the worst effect of the thefts may be the loss of trust and possible damage to programs at the alternative school.

School officials are hoping much of the missing equipment might be recovered later today by La Grande police when a search warrant is used to go through a suspects vehicle. School officials will stand by to check the serial numbers of items police find during the search.

Taken from the alternative classroom building was a computer, two video cameras, a VCR and a digital video camera.

Between Tuesday and Wednesday a staff member had a set of school keys stolen from a vehicle.

While police have taken a suspect into custody, the matter is still under investigation pending the search of the vehicle. Potter said that the suspect is not a

La Grande student.

I hope those keys are in there, Potter said. If the keys arent found, the school will incur a substantial financial cost to rekey the high school.

My hope is that everything is there, in the vehicle, Potter said. My fear is that its not.

While the school has insurance on its property, Potter explained that there isnt money to immediately replace any missing or damaged items. Any loss means programs in the alternative school might have to do without in the interim, he said.