Students at Brewster Middle School on Marine Corps Camp Lejeune, North Carolina returned to classes today despite water damage and mold that is now making them sick, according to parents who spoke with Military.com.
Brewster Middle School sustained extensive water damage from Hurricane Florence, the parents said, with a power outage that lasted nine days. Teachers were brought back to school Sept. 24, they said, while students returned to class today.
But when some parents visited the school to look at conditions, they found molding tiles and vents, buckled floors and small bugs in an area used by special needs students, they told Military.com.
"My kids are not going to go back to school until I see proof that they've actually had professionals come out and do what they're trained do," said Laura Shuler, whose daughter and special needs son both attend Brewster.
Shuler's son, an eighth-grader, has cerebral palsy and is wheelchair bound, she said. After dropping him off this morning, she walked around the school to review conditions, but was horrified by what she identified as mold growing on tiles, door frames and air vents, among other locations.
Shuler pulled her son and daughter from school after seeing the mold. She said her son had developed a rash during his short time in the building on his neck and her daughter, who has documented mold allergies, had a severe headache.
"I knew that the electricity had been out and that it had just come back on on Sunday, and just knowing how hot and humid it gets here, that there would be mold," she told Military.com.
Becca Jordan, said she visited the school Sept. 24 to decide if her son, Jaxson, who has an autoimmune condition, should return.
"I knew the minute I walked in there I wasn't going to be able to let Jackson go," she said.
Photos shared with Military.com and on social media appear to also show extensive mold growth.
An official with Marine Corps Installations East said as a result of the parents' complaints base officials today sent a team to inspect the school and assist the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) with the issues.
"They have sent an industrial hygiene inspection team from Naval Medical Center Camp Lejeune to help DoDEA and mitigate it with [DoDEA's] cleaning crews," said Nat Fahy, a spokesman for Marine Corps Installations East.
Fahy said whether or not school is in session tomorrow at Brewster is up to DoDEA. Officials with DoDEA did not respond by deadline for requests for comment.
A video posted to Facebook, however, appeared to contain audio of a meeting held today between several Brewster parents and a man one parent identified to Military.com as DoDEA's Camp Lejeune school superintendent Todd Curkendall.
"I went over there today and walked the entire northeast corner and I directed them to replace some tiles in the sensory room and there was some little bugs in there," the man reported to be Curkendall said in the video. "I asked our facilities guys to authorize four hours of overtime for four people this evening to go in and do more deep cleaning in the classrooms."
The man confirmed an inspection by base environmental officials had not been done before the school was reopened, but did not say in the recording whether or not school would be closed for further clean-up.
"I understand people are sensitive," he said.
-- Amy Bushatz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.