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Scourge of copper theft hits new Stockbridge school

By Jason A. Smith

jsmith@henryherald.com

For the second time since opening their doors earlier this month, students, faculty and staff of a new school in Stockbridge are feeling the heat as a result of a particularly uncomfortable theft.

Both incidents took place at High Point Christian Academy, which is housed inside First Christian Church of Stockbridge, at 102 Valley Hill Road.

The first theft allegedly took place Aug. 6, two days after the school opened. According to Henry County Police Capt. Jason Bolton, an employee at the school was the first to tell authorities copper piping had been stolen from outside the building. "[She] noticed that it was hot, and the air conditioning was not working," he said. "The pipe was discovered missing when she went outside to check the units."

Police confirmed copper was taken from eight air-conditioning units during the burglary.

Patti McNorton, the office manager at High Point, was among the first at the school to notice the theft. She said, after the incident took place, church leaders purchased new copper and security cages, in an effort to protect the facility from further damage. "[Members of] the church congregation kept watch over the new copper after it was installed, before the cages arrived."

Still, McNorton said, the culprits "struck again" between 10 p.m., Tuesday and 6 a.m., Wednesday. This time, she added, copper was stolen from five more units at the front of the church building. "[Those units] connect to the sanctuary, so there's no air-conditioning in the church now."

McNorton said the students at High Point have reacted well in the wake of the thefts, and have not complained about having to brave the summer elements to attend classes. "We saw no anger in the kids," she said. "We were surprised, because they were uncomfortable in the heat."

McNorton noted some of the children have suggested praying for the people who committed the crimes, and inviting them to church when they are found.

McNorton's husband and High Point's director, Larry McNorton, said he has been pleased with the attitudes of his students. Nevertheless, he said he hopes the people who committed the thefts are brought to justice.

"We all want to have the heart of a child," he said. "But I've watched the people of the church struggle over this. It's hard to forgive and forget. People need to learn that when you do wrong, there are consequences for it."