MCDUFFIE COUNTY, Ga. (WJBF) – An individual caused major damage to school buses and property at Thomson High School after stealing keys to one of the buses in the county’s transportation lot and taking it on a joyride early Thursday morning.

Twenty-three out of the county’s 63 buses were damaged, leaving students who ride the bus to find other ways to get to school.

The McDuffie County School System is not commenting due to the criminal investigation, but a suspect identified as a 16-year-old McDuffie County student is in custody.

They hit several buses as well as a light pole, several traffic signs, a breeze way, and ran over a small tree.

The student was learning off-campus because of a previous incident.

“I got a text from my best friend saying ‘so who vandalized the buses?'” said Shelby Carpenter, a student at Thomson High School. “And I was like ‘wait a minute, what?!’”

Carpenter, among many other students, ended up having an excused absence from school.

“Her morning bus was able to actually run, it was not one of them vandalized, but her afternoon bus she takes, she would not have a ride home this afternoon,” said Melissa Carpenter, Shelby’s mom.

Buses from Columbia County will be brought in to replace the damaged buses until further notice.

“I know that our county’s not well prepared right now to get all new buses, we’ve had bus issues in the past with buses breaking down and whatnot, so what are we gonna do?” Melissa Carpenter said. “I’m thankful our surrounding counties can help us at this time, but I’m sure that’s not a permanent fix.”

And other parents right now, are just trying to figure out how this could’ve happened.

“I thought the buses were secure, but for someone to even think about coming and taking a bus and going on a joyride, to be able to do that, that’s the surprising thing to me,” said Sherrie Gant, a parent at Thomson High. 

The school system said the bus routes will run as scheduled on Friday, and parents should be receiving a call with newly assigned bus numbers. The school system is also still trying to figure out how much the damages are going to cost.