Classrooms Are 'Completely Taken Over by Rats,' Teachers Say as Calif. School Cancels Classes

Schurr High School teacher and faculty president Paul Chavez said the rodent problem has been apparent for "years"

A school in southern California has postponed its first day of school after educators reported a massive rodent problem on campus.

Rats, feces and extensive damage were found in various classrooms at Schurr High School in Montebello, California as teachers returned to prepare for the upcoming school year, according to CBS news station KCAL.

At least one large rat can be seen scampering across a classroom in a video reportedly recorded inside a building on campus.

"It's not safe, it is absolutely a health issue," said social studies teacher Al Cuevas.

Some of his fellow teachers attempted to clean up the mess, but the situation was out of control, Cuevas added.

"Some of the rooms were completely taken over by rats," he told KCAL.

Interim superintendent Dr. Mark Skvarna told The Los Angeles Times that he expected the school to reopen in 15 days, though a firm date had not yet been set. Skvarna did not immediately return PEOPLE's request for comment.

Students were supposed to return to fully in-person classes on Monday for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020.

Nadine Garcia, a parent in the district, said her daughter was set to begin high school that day.

"They totally could've been more prepared to start," she told KCAL.

Garcia is one of the parents blaming the school's administration and Montebello Unified School District, claiming they were aware of the problem before families were informed of the delay on Friday.

A letter to parents obtained by KCAL stated that "rodents were found" while workers evaluated the school's ductwork and HVAC systems, and that "due to the type of construction and cleanup work, we will not be able to utilize the C-Building."

The district said students and staff were "unable to be relocated safely" at the time, according to KCAL.

"Out of an abundance of caution, it was determined that the best course of action was to delay the start of school for everyone's safety," reads the letter, which notes certain portions of campus will remain open.

"That was very aggravating," Garcia told KCAL of receiving the notice on Friday. "And since then, today, I have tried to call the district and the school. No answer."

David Navar, the president of the Montebello Teachers Association, said the presence of rats has been an ongoing issue at the school.

"It's a tragedy," he told the news station. "It's a disaster for our students who are losing out on valuable instructional days."

"We're talking even years back," teacher and faculty president Paul Chavez told the Times. "It was a noticeable issue."

He added, "I just felt like band aids were put on this situation when a little bit more attention needed to be addressed."

Skvarna acknowledged that the district should have done more in identifying the rodent problem ahead of the 2021-22 school year. But the newspaper noted that he was hired in March, months following a financial report determined the Montebello Unified School District ran a high risk of insolvency.

"I'm not going to make excuses that this stuff was done as well as it could have been done," Skvarna told the Times. "I don't believe it was done as well as it could have been done."

Skvarna told the newspaper that the district is doing its best to "get these facilities up to standards."

"I believe we need to put effort and money into it," he added. "I don't believe it's been a priority."

Meanwhile, parents simply want answers. Sandra Torres, a "frustrated" mother of a 14-year-old incoming freshman with special needs, said she is "upset and sad" about the ordeal.

"[Diego's] not just your typical 14-year-old," she told the Times. "Now he's so confused about the whole thing: 'I was supposed to start school. What's going on?'"

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