Teachers and parents at Sherwood Elementary in Norfolk have expressed concerns that administrators are not taking enough steps to combat the mold, insect, and rodent infestations currently beleaguering the school.

The Virginian-Pilot reported teachers were worried that school district administrators were downplaying the gravity of the situation, saying the problem is more dire this year. Staff reported seeing rat droppings, roaches crawling from the bags students receive their breakfasts in, and even a rat eating the head of another rat.

There have also been reports of mold, with one room getting quarantined due to “possible” mold. According to staff, one teacher sought treatment at the emergency room for breathing problems, a student got sick with “asthma-related” breathing problems, and a pregnant teacher decided to stop working altogether until the issues had been remedied. Multiple parents also reported that their children had been feeling ill since returning to school this fall.

To make matters worse, the school has asbestos floor tiles which teachers are concerned will be disturbed in the fight to correct the problem. 

After the Virginia-Pilot’s report and a robocall alerting the community of the issue, parents’ concerns reached a boiling point at a meeting with school administrators. Parents repeatedly shouted over the school board as they tried to placate the packed crowd.

School board officials admitted that they did not handle the issues correctly at first, and said they were not transparent enough in their efforts to remedy the situation. The administrators also said they were not free to close the school because tests had shown there wasn’t officially a health problem.

Sherwood Forest, which was built in 1957, was one of 21 Norfolk elementary schools rated as being in “poor” condition during a 2017 facilities audit.