(MOBILE, Ala.) - Vandals turned Meadowlake Elementary School off Three Notch Road into their playground Wednesday.
They set two separate fires inside the school, which caused the sprinklers to flood the cafeteria and a classroom. Several inches of water had to be swept out and sucked up off the floors. Industrial fans dried out classes and helped remove the strong smoky odor left behind.
"It's just complete shock and devastation, especially when I realized that it was an intentional act of arson, just really upsetting," Meadowlake Principal Susan Smith said.
Smith says the thieves also created a mess outside by mowing down the school's fence and knocking an A/C unit off its foundation.
"It's just a huge mess that really was for no reason, just pointless," Smith said.
It's also a $50,000 mess the school system says it can't afford.
"It's unplanned, unbudgeted money we're spending," facilities manager Tommy Sheffield said. "It's very frustrating. We have a lot to deal with here."
Though the sprinklers soaked through and ruined many classroom materials, Sheffield says the system worked how it was supposed to and the damage could've been far worse.
"It could've burned the entire facility down. We could've lost a $10 million elementary school," Sheffield said.
Authorities say the people who caused the damage will face arson, burglary and criminal mischief charges.
The damage done to Meadowlake is the latest in a string of break-ins and vandalism at local schools. Sheffield says thieves have caused around $500,000 in damage this summer alone.