FOX13 Investigates the age of MSCS buildings after school ceiling collapse

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The collapse of a ceiling inside the library of a Memphis school has the Memphis-Shelby County School District (MSCS) scrambling to address it with parents and families and trying to figure out why it happened.

MSCS school officials were on defense in the early hours of the investigation.

SEE MORE: 3 taken to hospital after ceiling collapse in library at Cummings School, MFD says

Despite what happened, officials with Memphis-Shelby County Schools declared their schools safe. Cummings School, where the collapse took place, opened in 1961, and the district concedes its age means it needs a closer look.

“We do have safe schools,” said John Barker, a deputy superintendent with the district.

Frantic parents were reunited with their children after getting an alert that school was dismissing early due to what the district called a “maintenance issue.”

“I was terrified. I was afraid. I didn’t know if my babies were okay or not,” said one mother who did not want to be identified.

What actually happened was not revealed until sometime later.

“The dropdown ceiling collapsed into the library area,” Barker said.

PHOTOS: 3 taken to hospital after ceiling collapse in library at Cummings School

Memphis Fire officials confirmed they responded to the scene and took one unit to Regional One.

In the coming days, weeks and months, investigators will work to figure out what led to that collapse.

“It is a little bit more of an aged building. So, we will take a look at building structure,” Barker.

FOX13 Investigates found district records that show nearly 40 percent of its schools are even older than Cummings.

At least half a dozen buildings are more than 100 years old.

In 2015, the district commissioned a study to evaluate district-owned facilities.

It led the district to identify more than $476 million in deferred capital maintenance needs over five years. As of last year, about 41 percent of those needs had been budgeted.

“This seems to be a bit of an anomaly in that there were no indications this was a concern,” Barker said.

Parents who were reunified with their children expressed frustration about the collapse, some wondering if their children were safe inside the school.

There were a few among the dozens that showed up to pick up their kids that expressed uncertainty about the safety of the school moving forward.