Vandalized A-C forces early dismissal at East Lake Elementary - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

UPDATE: Vandalized A-C forces early dismissal at East Lake Elementary

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CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) - Back to school for thousands of children throughout the Tennessee Valley. 

Ninety degree heat, and a cold-hearted thief, or thieves, have made for uncomfortable classrooms, and inconvenient calls to parents at one elementary school in Hamilton County.

Vandals tore up the air conditioning, at East Lake Elementary School.

East Lake Elementary used the Connect-ED, and old fashioned phone calling.

The school's first half-day ended well for second-grader Deedee Horton.

"Because it was fun, and we got to meet new friends," she says.

But it wasn't supposed to be only a half day.

"They told me they didn't have any air in school," Deedee's mother Crystal says.

"That's the part I didn't like," Deedee says.

"There had been vandalism, says East Lake Principal Stacy Johnson.

Sometime between 4 and 4:30 Wednesday morning, somebody cut through the wire-mesh gate in the security fence that surrounds the air conditioning units, Johnson says. He/they cut out the copper Freon line on the compressor.

"About 50 dollars worth of copper," Hamilton County Schools operations director Karen Hollis says. "But it ultimately will cost the school system/insurance company about $10-40,000 thousand to fix.

Pea gravel and kitty litter covers the oil that spewed.

The thief or thieves didn't get away unscathed either. Somebody cut himself pretty deeply, and left the blood spatters to prove it.

Hollis is hopeful that, and some fingerprints will lead to who did it.

"Maintenance is gonna work 24-7 to get those parts to us and get this unit fixed," Hollis says. "Best case scenario, Friday. Worst case? Monday."

Until then, it's break out the fans and end the school day, right after lunch.

"That's a real inconvenience for the rest of the week." Crystal Horton says. "Cause its hard finding babysitters to watch your child the rest of the evening."

"If that happens, they'll stay home," says Traci Gables, mother to a third grader and fourth grader.

Still, she and Horton believe school officials kept their cool and made the right call.

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