Chemical odor shuts schools

Advocate staff photo by RICHARD ALAN HANNONEast Baton Rouge Parish school system officials closed Crestworth Elementary School in Scotlandville Friday morning due to a gas-like odor. A Sheriff's Office unit is parked outside the school, one of three closed as a result of the odor.
Advocate staff photo by RICHARD ALAN HANNONEast Baton Rouge Parish school system officials closed Crestworth Elementary School in Scotlandville Friday morning due to a gas-like odor. A Sheriff's Office unit is parked outside the school, one of three closed as a result of the odor.

State and local emergency response officials are still trying to find the source of a gas-like odor that prompted the closure of several schools Friday morning in north Baton Rouge.

Rodney Mallett, a spokesman for the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, said DEQ staff did air monitoring for volatile organic compounds and other compounds Friday but didn’t detect anything even though they could smell an odor.

Mallett said DEQ would move its mobile air monitoring vehicle to the area to try to track down what was causing the smell.

Baton Rouge Fire Department spokesman Robert Combs said the hazardous materials team went out to the area Thursday in response to similar odor complaints but couldn’t find anything.

Team members returned to the area Friday and did more monitoring, but didn’t find anything, he said.

The odor led to the closure of several schools in the Scotlandville area, the area generally bounded on the north by Blount Road and Scenic Highway, on the west by the Mississippi River, on the south by Harding Boulevard and on the east by Elm Grove Garden Drive.

The East Baton Rouge Parish school system closed Crestworth Elementary School, 11200 Avenue F, for the day, spokeswoman Susan Nelson said.

The Louisiana Recovery School District closed Crestworth Learning Academy, 10650 Avenue F, and students and staff were evacuated, according to a news release.

“Parents have been notified via telephone of the closure and reported gas leak. Some parents have elected to pick up their students from the school immediately following the announcement,” the news release says.

“There are 32 remaining students and they have been re-located to the RSD Office at 4055 Prescott Road,” the news release says. “All students are safe and the RSD is providing lunch for the students. The RSD is continuing communications to the parents of the remaining students and discussing their options for transporting their children home.”

Parents who wanted to pick up their children were told to go to the Recovery School District office. Students who rode the bus were be transported home at the regular time.

In addition, J.K. Haynes Charter School, 8600 Elm Grove Garden Drive, closed for the day, said Rhonda Broux, an administrative assistant at the school.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly said that Southern University is also being closed for the day as a result of the chemical release. The university is open.