CHARLOTTE, N.C.-- Alison Hiltz is a hands on principal. But last year at Druid Hills Academy, Hiltz was practically stopped in her tracks.

I sat in my office and came out soaked after twenty minutes, said Hiltz.

The principal was sweating. The temperature at the K-8 school was out of control.

We were in the 88-92 degree range in the classroom, she said.

It was not a great environment for learning, she said of the one-week period that school year.

Hiltz figured the AC was off or broken and checked the system.

I m looking and there's just wire out there, she said.

Guy chamberlain is with CMS. He walked NBC Charlotte through Druid Hills and the area where the principal saw the hanging wire.

That's what they were taking, he said as he pointed to new copper piping in the HVAC system at Druid Hills.

Chamberlain is working overtime trying to catch copper thieves creating havoc on Charlotte- Mecklenburg Schools.

I think the thing that's unfortunate is that the only get $100 worth for what you steal. We lose $150,000 in having to replace the chiller, said Chamberlain.

So far the thieves have hit Druid Hills, J.W. Grier, Oakhurst, Pineville Elementary (old and new facilities) and Greenway Park. CMS is improving the fencing around HVAC systems at several schools, even alarming many to stop the thieves.
The system has spent $500,000 in damages and repairs. They realize it s money lost and opportunity taken.

For her part, Hiltz has a message to the thieves.

Stay away from the schools. You're not helping your kids, she said. You're setting up a horrible learning environment for our future.

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