ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – Thieves crippled Pajarito Elementary School overnight, stealing thousands of dollars worth of copper wire.
That may be just the beginning of the damage. The South Valley school’s classrooms are empty and dark. Power was completely cut to the school and crews are still working to get things up and running.
“This is the first time we’ve had to shut down a school because of a copper theft,” said Director John Dufay of APS operations.
APS says a custodian came to Pajarito Elementary School early Tuesday morning and found the problem.
Copper thieves made off with $5,000 worth of wire, Dufay says. Whoever’s behind this stole the wire while the system was energized, meaning someone could’ve been seriously hurt.
It’s estimated that between parts and labor, this bill is going to top out close to $10,000 and it’s the APS operating budget that will take the hit.
“That’s the same money that puts teachers in the classroom, EA’s, nurses – and so we have to tap that account to pay for the damage and pay for all of the repairs,” Dufay said.
Close to 500 students attend Pajarito and Dufay says many of them are on free or reduced breakfast and lunch, and this hurts them.
He also says since the system was hot when the theft occurred, electronics inside the school could be fried, adding to the damage.
They’ll also be going over surveillance to see if anything was caught on camera.
Once APS crews replace the copper wire, PNM will come out and restore power. Everything should be done by Tuesday afternoon.
Last Friday, thieves hit Griegos Elementary and stole copper wire which caused $6,000 in damage.