SELMA, AL (WSFA) - Thieves have just made things very difficult for Selma city school leaders. Over the course of two weekends, the culprits did a number on the air conditioning units at two schools and you won't believe how far they went and how brazen they were to get that copper.
Stripped clean. Damaged. Destroyed. Not just at Kingston Elementary, where criminals emptied out the split air conditioning unit, but they stole the copper as well in the smaller units. The suspects apparently made their way over the 8-foot decorative fence in the courtyard.
"The only one still working over there is the principal's office," said Selma City School Operations Manager Joe Peterson.
Joe Peterson has never seen anything like it. As of right now, 80 percent of the school has no cool air flowing through it and we are in the dog days of summer.
"I'm really perturbed," he said.
It gets worse. At R.B. Hudson Middle School, presumably the same bad folks used the ladder to climb on top of the school and steal the copper out of four units near the gym. At least 40 percent of the school has no air. This is clearly the work of someone who knew what they were doing in the dark of night.
"Or they had access. They had a key. I don't think it's someone working for us now but someone previously that worked for us and kept a key," he said.
School leaders anticipate the repair job at both schools to be around $200,000 including labor, not good for a poor district, such as Selma, on the eve of a new school year.
Meantime, Selma school officials got good news late Wednesday afternoon. The new air conditioning units for Kingston Elementary will arrive this week plus the cages that will surround the units. Peterson expects all the units to be running by the end of next week before the start of school on Aug. 6. It may take a little longer for R.B. Hudson Middle School but only the gym and cafeteria are affected at that school.
"It may be the case of students being at another school," said Selma City School Communications Engagement Specialist Courtney Washington.
Bids are going out this week for the new air conditioners. The goal is to get back to that comforting hum of working units real soon. Research tells us the value of copper is around $2.80 per pound as of today.
Selma police tell us they've made no arrest in the case so far.