An Oak Ridge preschool got an unpleasant surprise this week when the school learned somebody had stolen their air conditioning unit.
Oak Ridge Nursery School Director Donna Warren says one of her staff members noticed the unit was missing on Tuesday, when she took a class outside to play.
"It's a shock something like this would happen. You know, it's a terrible thing," she said. Some tire marks were still visible in the grass nearby on Wednesday.
Warren reported the theft to Oak Ridge police, who say the culprits likely stole the unit for the profitable copper inside.
"It's sad to take something from a nursery school, or any place," Warren said. "An air conditioning unit? I think it's pretty sad."
One of the school's parents, Peter Blair, agrees.
"It's just unbelievable that someone would want to do that to these little kids," he said. "I mean, if you're that desperate for money go somewhere else. It just doesn't make sense to come to a sweet little nursery school to take from them."
Warren guesses the cost to replace the unit will be around $3,000 to $4,000, a new burden for the non-profit nursery. The school was built in the 1940s during the Manhattan Project in Oak Ridge, and Warren says maintaining the older building is not cheap.
"We're raising money to renovate one of our bathrooms right now, and we're trying to have a fundraiser to do that. So, it just adds another hardship to that, you know, another burden."
The Oak Ridge Police Department Captain Mike Uher said this theft was probably an isolated incident, since he was not aware of any other recent unit thefts.
The stolen unit was used to cool one part of the nursery, in the classrooms with the youngest children and babies. The school still has additional units to cool other parts of the building.