BACK TO SCHOOL: Alana Williams of Queen Street in La Brea escorts her nieces, Sapphire, left, and Shayenne Joseph, to school yesterday on the first day of the new term. The sisters are pupils of Morning Glory Pre-School, one of the few in the area which reopened following the oil spills. —Photo: DEXTER PHILIP

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La Brea schoolchildren stay home

 CHILDREN were playing in their front yards in La Brea yesterday, the first day of the new school term.

 The children stayed home after their parents claimed they had fallen ill from the hydrocarbon fumes wafting off the oil spill that has besieged the community for the past three weeks. 

The Express was told that those children seen playing outside had felt a little better towards afternoon and were given a chance to do something other than “hide inside”.

“They don’t really have anything to do with themselves today,” one resident said of the children.

“If they say inside, they are stifling and feeling sick. When they go outside, they getting the fumes fresh. As this afternoon was cool and breezy, some people let their children out.”

  For some of the children, the return to school is an uncertainty, as their parents had either fallen ill themselves or hit upon hard times from a  lack of work due to the spill.

Most of the children attend the La Brea Roman Catholic Primary School and the Brighton AC Primary School, where the doors were opened as usual yesterday.

“We have been told that there was school as usual but it is just our children in the area who were affected who could not attend,” said Kebo Joseph, whose three nephews stayed at home and also because their mother, Melissa Joseph, is hospitalised after becoming ill.

At Coffee Beach, where the brunt of the spill had covered the rocky coast, clean up operations continued.

While residents claimed that more oil was washing onto shore everytime progress was made, a clean-up crew member told the Express that the process was going “very well”.

The initial shock of the spill has dulled, some residents said, claiming that they have become used to the new routine.

Elderly fishermen and sailors simply hang around each other’s homes, observing the mop up operations or chatting with visitors.

Most people in the area sad they have become “sluggish” after weeks of inhaling the scent of the oil, which smells predominantly of gasoline, and some said they are no longer waking up on time.

“I am normally wide awake by five in the morning,” said one man.

“I waking up seven or so now.”

Other said they are anxious but feel powerless.

“No amount of protest is going to make this clean-up go faster,” said one fisherman.

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