04/02/14 — District: Bats are under control

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District: Bats are under control

By From staff reports
Published in News on April 2, 2014 1:46 PM

PIKEVILLE -- A report of a colony of bats infesting the gymnasium at Northeast Elementary School is not true, Wayne County Public Schools officials say.

Officials said a handful of bats were able to enter the building through an opening in the roof, but that the entry point has been sealed. No students have come into contact with any bats, said Ken Derksen, WCPS spokesman.

"Only a small number of bats have actually entered the false ceiling above the gymnasium from an outside entry point," Derksen said. "It was determined that the entry point was a small crack near the roofline, which has since been sealed."

But parents of students at the school say the problem has not been fixed and that there are still bats in the building.

A physical education class had to be canceled because of the problem, one mother said.

"It's disgusting," said Jenny Mooring, the mother of a third-grade student at the school.

Mrs. Mooring said school officials were not taking the threat to students seriously enough.

"I had three teachers call me last night and they even said the school system is not telling the truth," Mrs. Mooring said.

Derksen this morning attempted to quell the rumors and to reassure the public that the situation is under control.

He said that the district is working closely with a pest management company to handle the situation and to ensure every aspect of safety is maintained.

The school was not evacuated because of the infestation on Monday, Derksen said, although one teacher did take students outside voluntarily at one point.

He maintains that reports of there being a "huge issue" with bats is not the case. He said the situation has been appropriately handled.

"I think the entry was discovered late last week and they were able to seal the entry point Monday," he said. "We believe there were only three bats at that point.

"They believe it was less than 20, but at this point, on Monday, when they were sealing it, they were able to capture and release them. They believe there aren't any more."

Several were captured and the district is trying to ensure that the rest are gotten rid of and no more gain entry, he said. Derksen said the evacuation of the gymnasium was because of a fire alarm test, but parents said the fire drill was held in the afternoon and the evacuation of the gym was in the morning.

Reports that dead bats were found are incorrect, Derksen said.

He noted that the bats were confined to an area in a false ceiling about 40 feet off the ground.

Parents disagreed and said the animals had come much lower to the floor.

Mrs. Mooring said the ductwork in which the bats were found was connected to the school lunchroom and that the animals had actually been seen in the school's hallways.

Derksen said the schools' maintenance workers responded to the incident as they would any report of animals finding their way into an attic or crawlspace.

"The Wayne County Public Schools will work diligently to remove these animals quickly and fix any outside entry points to prevent them from returning," Derksen said.

He admitted there had been conflicting reports circulating in the community, many of them untrue.

"The bottom line is we're aware of the problem. We treat it like any other situation when animals get into a school," he said. "It's probably a frustration for parents.

"It took a couple weeks to find the entry point. In this situation, it took a little bit longer than we would have liked to find the entry point, but we're cautiously optimistic that they have stopped the problem."