'It's not like home': McDougald Terrace children scared to return home amid carbon monoxide crisis

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- On Wednesday, ABC11 sat down with students at Burton Elementary School who have been displaced from McDougald Terrace after concerns of carbon monoxide.

Students Jawuan Holbert, Kavaughn Pass, Tyrell Williams and Keyra Pettiford are among the dozens of Durham students forced to live in hotels with their families indefinitely.

Three out of the four said they were ready to return. Pettiford told ABC11 she does not want to go home.

"It's a bad environment. A really bad environment. And I don't want to be there. So I would rather be at the hotel than McDougald," Pettiford said. "People are dying and there's shootings."

46 children at Burton Elementary live in McDougald Terrace, a neighborhood known for violence and now potentially poisonous gas.

RELATED: How to help families forced to leave McDougald Terrace amid carbon monoxide scare

ABC11 asked the students how they feel about carbon monoxide being tested in some of the homes.

"I feel bad. I feel bad," said Tyrell Williams. "Because some people can die from that."

At school, staff gauge every displaced student's emotions with a color chart. Each color from green, yellow, and red represents their mood.

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All the students including Williams said they were the color green, which represents happy.

The color green is progress for 9-year-old Williams. Teachers said Monday he was the color red, which represents anger.

The third grader is crammed into a hotel room with his mother, older brother and two toddlers.

He told ABC11 he looks forward to going to school.

"It mostly be a relief," Williams said, "Because when I go to school, I will be able to learn, and my brothers won't be screaming and stuff."

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Principal Dr. Kimberly Ferrell says staff are adjusting to the students needs.

"When they come in they are tired. Some of them would lay on the bean bag and sleep for two hours because they are not sleeping at night," Dr. Ferrell said. "So we let them get a nap and we hit the road with academics."

A social worker and counselor also talk to the students about their experiences.

"Things are going as well as we can expect," said Ponsella Brown, a counselor at Burton Elementary. "I don't know what the impact would be the longer it gets."

Because of the uncertain fate of these student's homes, people and organizations are dropping by Burton Elementary donating coats, backpacks, supplies, and food and even money.

10-year-old Jawuan Holbert and Kavaughn Pass told ABC11 they are thankful for the help. "I'm happy for them going out of their way, and out of their pockets to get the stuff we need for the hotels," said Holbert.

"I feel good about that because they are basically helping us live and stuff," said Pass.

Administrators said their challenge is remaining emotionally strong in front of the students.

"I have two children of my own and it's hard to think what would my children do without the basic needs," said assistant Principal Dr. Mondrae Williams. "I can only imagine how they are feeling and it's heartbreaking."

If you would like to support these displaced students at Burton Elementary you can drop off basic essential items at the school. There are displaced students at other Durham Public Schools. Click on this link to see how you help them.
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