Protesters outside of the Naval Support Activity Naples support site caused a last-minute shutdown of the elementary and high schools Wednesday morning and brought delays for those entering and leaving the base.

The few dozen people weren’t protesting the base itself, but the company New Star, a subcontractor that provided workers for the on-base Navy Lodge cleaning contract. A new contractor took over operations at the hotel Wednesday, forcing 22 New Star employees out of their jobs.

One of the former Navy Lodge workers, who gave only her first name, Agnese, said that New Star had not followed Italian law by dismissing the workers after losing the contract.

Another former Navy Lodge contract worker, Lucia Esposito, told Stars and Stripes that she only learned of her dismissal Tuesday after receiving a fax from the Gemmo Corporation, which she said held the actual cleaning contract.

Naples public affairs officer Lt. Cmdr. Jackie Fisher said that after hearing about the protest, base officials decided to close the school about 6 a.m. All school bus routes were stopped before they were sent out with the exception of those coming from Gaeta, about 60 miles northwest of Naples, which were already on their way. They were turned back before arriving in Naples.

Base officials also canceled one of the morning shuttle runs between the support site and Capodichino base. The support site has more than 800 Navy housing units, the base hospital, main exchange and commissaries, as well as a handful of other facilities, including the Navy Lodge.

As the protesters stood outside the gates fighting the cold wind, military and civilian personnel with school-aged children fought with problems brought about by the unexpected school closure.

Morale, Welfare and Recreation officials tried to help parents fill the surprise day off by running movies at the Capodichino and Gricignano theaters.

“That’s our general plan,” said parent Adrienne Ross, about the movies. Ross not only was caring for her two children, but two others as well. Normally, she just has to ensure that the four get to school on time, but on Wednesday she had to provide a day’s worth of entertainment.

Ross and her husband, Marine Corps Capt. Thomas Ross of Naval Forces Europe/Sixth Fleet staff, waited outside the base dining facility for the mother of her two extra troopers so they all could eat lunch together.

Other groups of parents and children walked past Ross and her family on their way to and from the Subway, Noble Romans pizza parlor and dining facility.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Jesus Luna’s wife, Sandra, and 6-year-old daughter, Britney, waited in the Noble Roman’s gaming area. They didn’t find out about the school closure until they were at the school. Traffic delays caused by the protesters also forced Sandra Luna to miss a doctor’s appointment, she said.

Agnese said the workers’ group will be lodging a formal complaint with government officials in Caserta on Thursday morning. If officials don’t take action, the protestors will be back outside of the base until they receive a proper resolution of their grievance, she said.

But parents needn’t worry. Naples officials e-mailed base personnel Wednesday afternoon that school was scheduled to be back on for Thursday morning.

Reporter Sandra Jontz contributed to this story.

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