INDIO, Calif. -

It was a little too quiet and too hot for comfort at the YMCA's Doris Mecahnick Preschool in Indio. Books went unread and chairs sat empty on Friday.

It was the aftermath of a theft. YMCA officials said thieves climbed onto the roof of the school this week, removed one AC unit and stole the copper coils from another.

"We serve ages three to five. It's hard when somebody has made a decision that negatively impacts our most vulnerable youth in the Valley," said YMCA Community Program Director Paula Simonds.

About 80 preschoolers participate in the morning and afternoon programs each day. Luckily, one classroom was kept cool with the remaining AC unit. However, for other students, because they'd have no place to cool down and learn after play time in the scorching heat, their afternoon session was cancelled.

"To come back in a warmer environment, it's challenging both for the child and staff involved," said Simonds.

The school said the estimated cost for the two units is about $14,000 each. Unfortunately, until they're replaced, kids in the afternoon class won't be welcomed back to school.

"Unfortunately, it's unfair and the kids get hurt for it. It's a sign of the times and it's happening everywhere," said Kathi Boothby, an aunt of a preschool student.

She's right. Copper is a cash crop. Indio Police warn there have been several cases of recent AC thefts in the city.
Meanwhile, students and staff are hoping it doesn't happen again to them.

"We'll move forward and get the center back open, so it's not so empty," said Simonds.

If you have any information on the theft, call Valley Crimestoppers at (760) 341-STOP.