The gymnasium at Faith Baptist Christian Academy in Ludowici has been closed, according to Long County Fire Marshal Shawn Smith.
The rest of the school is still open. The gym closure is apparently in response to how some students at the private school had been housed, he said.
Long County EMA Director Bob Hefley said students had been living above the gym with only two toilets, no smoke detectors and an air and heating system that worked intermittently. Smith added that he knew of only one working smoke detector, no fire extinguishers and overloaded electrical outlets.
Hefley said the students slept on blow-up mattresses on the floor. He said he did not consider the facility suitable for the number of students living there. Both he and Smith said they considered conditions hazardous to the students.
Hefley said after a raid Wednesday evening by state and federal officials that 22 students were housed in a Red Cross-established shelter at the nearby Cavalry Baptist Church. Seven minors were reportedly placed in foster care through the Department of Family and Children Services.
The raid was to serve a federal warrant that had been prompted by complaints, according to officials at the scene.
Wednesday night’s story:
Federal and state authorities apparently removed students from housing at a private school in Ludowici Wednesday afternoon.
According to Homeland Security spokesman Vincent Picard, agents from one of the agency’s area offices executed a federal search warrant in support of an ongoing criminal investigation at the Faith Baptist Christian Academy in Ludowici. There were teens from overseas housed in a building on the property.
The Rev. Terry Sellars, pastor of Faith Baptist Church, which runs the school, said he was surprised by the raid. Neither he nor officers involved explained why the school was raided.
Sellars, however, said there have been accusations against the church about the housing of students. He would not elaborate. He did say they are being investigated over incidents that had occurred elsewhere.
He said the school helps bring high school-age students here to be educated. The students are American- and foreign-born.
Shawn Brown with the Long/Liberty County Department of Family and Children Services said his office is assessing the conditions the children were living in. He would not discuss how many children where involved, where they were being taken, nor the conditions in which they had been living.
He did say the students range in age from preteens to teens. He said his office has about six employees processing them.