Vandalism forces early dismissal at East Lake school

photo East Lake Elementary School.
photo Rick Smith, superintendent for Hamilton County Schools, discusses education in his office.

East Lake Elementary School students will be dismissed at 12:30 p.m. for the foreseeable future after the school's air-conditioning system was vandalized, leaving more than 400 students to contend with high temperatures in the 90s.

"Some people cut through the fence last night and tore out some copper in our chiller," Hamilton County Schools Superintendent Rick Smith said Wednesday.

School officials called the central office Wednesday morning to report that the air-conditioning wasn't working, said Karen Hollis, operations director for elementary schools with the school district.

She said the $50 worth of copper the vandals took will cost the school district between $10,000 and $20,000 because of damage to other components and the parts and labor required to fix the system. Most of the cost will be covered by insurance, she said.

She said the parts needed to fix the air conditioner will be shipped overnight and crews will fix the problem as soon as possible.

Students will continue to be dismissed at 12:30 until further notice.

The district's central office also took 32 fans to the school to help circulate the air, Hollis said.

"It is so frustrating just because it's the first day of school and we are trying to run school here," Hollis said.