Thieves stripped copper wiring from the air conditioning units at a downtown Modesto school over the weekend, leaving about 100 preschoolers through fourth-graders to swelter in this week's heat wave.
Debbie Martinez, office manager of the Small World Pre-School and Christian Elementary School at Sixth and K streets, said school officials first got a call at 1:30 a.m. Friday reporting a break-in. Thieves broke a window, entered the building and took about 180 Popsicles along with paper plates and napkins. "We fixed the window Saturday," she said.
Then, when students arrived to begin the school year Monday, the air conditioning didn't work. School officials discovered that six air conditioning units had been vandalized, with the copper wire removed by thieves who likely will sell it for scrap.
The building is insured but the units won't be repaired quickly, Martinez said. "We're getting bids," she said.
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In the meantime, fans will be used in the classrooms. Temperatures are expected to soar today and Thursday before dropping back down into the 90s by Friday. The Modesto Irrigation District said Tuesday's temperature hit 100 degrees.
The school is affiliated with the non-denominational Friendly Tabernacle Church and its Friendly Wedding Chapel. The chapel's air conditioning also is affected by the vandalism. "We have four weddings booked for the fourth (of September), and they've been planning them for over a year," Martinez said.
The school has experienced vandalism before, including damaged air conditioning units, broken windows and graffiti. In April 2008, someone stole the slide from the school's playground. The slide was part of playground equipment the school bought after its students raised $1,800.
After that theft was detailed in a Bee column, the slide suddenly reappeared.
Already, people have responded to the latest incident.
"We had somebody who came by and donated 180 Popsicles," Martinez said. "We'll use them to help keep the kids cool."
Anyone with information about the recent theft can call Crime Stoppers at 521-4636. Tipsters can e-mail tips through the Crime Stoppers Web site, www.stancrimetips.org, or text tips to CRIMES (274637) by typing "Tip704" and a message. Callers to Crime Stoppers can remain anonymous and are eligible for a cash reward.