Parents from Schurr High School in Montebello, California were given days notice that their children would not be returning to school. Initially they were told it was a construction issue, but the real reason turns out to be a rat infestation.
Upon arrival, teachers found dead rats on the floor, rat nests in the cabinets, and excrement on desks. Teachers had tried to clean their classrooms themselves but some had been destroyed by the rodents.
Social studies teacher Al Cuevas spoke with the Los Angeles Times:
"There was feces in several places in my room."
"I could hear rats running around in the walls and ceiling. It's disgusting."
"Other rooms right near me were completely taken over by rats."
"It's not safe."
"It is absolutely a health issue."
On the Friday before the school was going to be opened, teachers complained to the Montebello School District interim Superintendent Mark Skvarna. By Friday afternoon, parents of some 2,600 students had received an email saying it would be "several weeks" before they would be back in classrooms.
Sudden School Closure At Schurr High School Over What Some Teachers Say Is Rat Infestation youtu.be
The letter to parents said:
"Regrettably, due to the type of construction and cleanup work we will not be able to utilize the C-Buildings."
"This is the largest building on the campus and student sand staff are unable to be relocated safely at this time."
There is no mention of the rat infestation.
The students at Schurr High School had been distance learning for over a year.
Nadine Garcia, a parent who's daughter is attending her first year at the high school, told KCAL:
"They totally could have been more prepared to start."
"Since then, today, I have tried to call the district and the school."
Sandra Torres, the mother of a 14-year-old Diego who's an incoming freshman, was considering pulling her son out of the school entirely:
"I'm just upset and sad. And frustrated. And a little bit of everything."
"More for Diego. He's not just your typical 14-year-old...."
"Now he's so confused about the whole thing: 'I was supposed to start school. What's going on?'"
President of the Montebello Teachers association David Navar said:
"The tragedy here is for our students who haven't been on the site for 18 months."
"It should be a celebration, a welcoming. Instead they are losing out on valuable instructional minutes, and it's a tragedy that our students are not getting what they deserve, what they have a right to, which is an education."
He also said that this has been a problem on their campus for years.
Another teacher, Paul Chavez, recalled times where rats would fall from the ceiling during meetings. This problem had been brought up to school administrators, custodians and the plant supervisor.
"People were coming back into their classrooms and sharing with me that these conditions are horrific."
"It was just a horrible situation.... A lot of people dug in and did a lot of the hard [cleanup] work themselves, which shouldn't have happened."
"But we wanted to prepare for our students."
Interim Supt. Skvarna said:
"I don't have the current plan of attack."
"I'm dealing with the HVAC issue, the cleaning of the rooms, the sanitizing of the rooms."
Skvarna became superintendent four months ago after a report on the district was done showing a high risk for bankruptcy. The Los Angeles Times reported the Montobello School District was officially accused of misleading investors in a $100-million bond sale back in 2019.
"We're trying to get these facilities up to standards. I don't believe they were before."
"I believe we need to put effort and money into it. I don't believe it's been a priority."
Teachers also reported that the air conditioning had not been updated and several classrooms don't have windows. During COVID, that has been a priority for schools to prevent the spread of the air-born virus. The U.S. Government did budget $67.5-billion for updating air quality in schools the the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund.
There has been no confirmed date to return to in-person schooling.