Federal agencies to investigate mysterious conditions at Lamarque Elementary

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Posted: Wednesday, January 22, 2014 4:24 pm | Updated: 5:00 pm, Thu Apr 3, 2014.

NORTH PORT, Fla. - Despite health complaints from teachers and students, recent tests are not showing anything wrong with Lamarque Elementary School in North Port. Now school district officials are asking for the federal government’s help.

With talk of tainted drywall or some other ailment potentially causing some to get sick at the school, it's not easy being a parent of a student there.

"There is a lot of hysteria going on right now, and understandably so." North Port resident Michelle Murphy has a 3rd grader in the school. She feels the school district wasn't always forthcoming but thinks they're doing everything they can now. "I feel that they are trying to keep things at bay. I feel that they are doing a lot."

Scott Lempe with the district says they’ve conducted their own testing, which they say found nothing. The Health Department says they've found nothing. So far a toxicology expert from the University of South Florida hasn't found any correlations to people getting sick from anything inside the building.

"The initial finding and the phrase he used and stuck in my mind, is he has not found a smoking gun."

Now the district is even calling in the feds, asking the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health to take a look.

"We sent them all of our data. We sent them the data so they could draw conclusions, and if they are so inclined, to come down and visit the school to help us troubleshoot. Is there anything in these results or any other testing you might want to do," says Lemke.

Michelle says that's a move many have wanted. "It makes me feel as though they are being non-biased and that they are doing the best they can."

Lempe says if there is a problem, they want to find it. "It is not in our best interest to be anything but transparent."

Critics of the situation say the district still has not done the right testing and should shut the school down.

“I would not be today uncomfortable sending my kids or grandkids to school at Lamarque, but we are going to continue to learn things as we bring in these outside agencies."

The school district says it's not about money, saying they've already spent more than $500,000 to find something. At one point they fixed some pipe work they say was causing a foul odor.

For those like Michelle, it's still an uneasy feeling, but she believes everyone is doing what they can. "I hope and I think that they are doing the best they can now."

Of course some parents are not taking any chances. A handful have pulled their students out of the school.

The school board has said anyone who wants to, can transfer, no questions asked.

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