Parents say they were left in the dark as their kids were stuck inside Walter Johnson Junior High School during a mercury contamination scare Wednesday.
Clark County School District officials held a meeting on Thursday night to clear up some of that confusion. But Thursday’s meeting gave them few answers and quickly descended into chaos.
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“It became too much of a free-for-all,” said Jarrod Langendorf, whose son was quarantined until 8 p.m. Wednesday.
Parents like Tiffany Moore said they did not get the answers they want to hear.
“I was very frustrated with the school,” said Moore, whose son was quarantined until just after 10 Wednesday night.
Moore complained the school district communicated poorly with parents.
“There was no communication whatsoever,” Moore said.
When Moore came to the district’s meeting, she told 13 Action News officials failed to give her a clear idea of what happened and why there was so much confusion.
“All that frustration would’ve been settled had you communicated on what you’re doing,” Moore said.
Hazmat teams called in Thursday after a student was spotted playing with mercury. Officials thought the problem could resolved quickly, only to find more mercury in other parts of the school.
“As kids were moving around, they were moving the substance around,” said Capt. Ken Young with CCSD Police.
The district locked down the school — no one in or out, some not leaving until after 3 a.m. Thursday.
“I knew my son was scared. I was scared for him,” Langendorf said, adding he got conflicting information. “All the information we were getting was second-hand from the police officers or from kids inside the school.”
When 13 Action News asked Young why parents were given confusing information, he responded, “You talk to other parents, they say they got good information. We did regular briefings. Sometimes an hour. Sometimes an hour and a half.”
Young said police told parents what they could when they could. But officials had to screen 1,200 students, which takes time and can cause confusion.
A spokesman for the federal Environmental Protection Agency said dozens of kids had traces of mercury on their clothes and had to be decontaminated.
The EPA will be back at the school from 8 a.m. until 10 p.m. Friday. Classes are canceled again at Johnson Junior High Friday.