UPDATE, Sept. 14, 7:30 p.m.: In response to inquiries from parents regarding the timing of communication to families, the district said the following:
The District had to confirm certain aspects of the letter with the department of health to ensure that we had clear and accurate information prior to advising parents about the specifics of the notice.
The District consulted with the department of health on Tuesday. We advised parents within 24 hours of that conversation.
The South Orange-Maplewood School District says it has taken swift action to combat mice infestations at schools throughout Maplewood, following a letter from Maplewood Health Officer Robert Roe.
In a letter dated August 24 (see the full letter below), Roe wrote that spring and summer inspections of elementary schools in Maplewood, Maplewood Middle School and Columbia High School showed infestations in classroom areas, storage areas and the cafeterias.
“This creates an immediate health hazard,” wrote Roe, who said that the schools were in violation of local and state health codes. He said that protocols for eliminating the food sources were not being followed as food was being served in classrooms and teachers were keeping food in their desks. Roe also wrote that inspections showed “inadequate work” by the current extermination company used by the district.
Roe then issued a notice detailing procedures for cleanup and storage — as well as directives on where and how food can be served in schools.
Roe’s letter was first reported by TAPintoSOMa at 12:20 p.m. today.
Today, the School District send the following email to all parents and guardians:
Dear SOMSD Community,
SOMSD recently received a letter from the Maplewood Health Officer about the problem of mice in school buildings. This is, of course, an issue which the district addresses year round. We have an Integrated Pest Management plan which complies with State requirements for schools, including that schools use methods that eliminate mice and other pests, but which are safe for everyone else.
In response to the letter from the Maplewood Health Officer, SOMSD has heightened our monitoring for pests, met with cleaning crews, expanded our cleaning and prevention protocols, and increased the frequency of pest control treatments. We are paying extra attention to all areas designated for food preparation or consumption. Additional information on SOMSD’s approach to Pest Management is below.
We are asking all staff, families and students to help us combat mice in the following ways:
- Limit food in areas outside of cafeterias to the fullest extent possible.
- Store snacks in metal or hard plastic containers that prevent mice entry.
- Pack lunches in containers which prevent mice entry.
- Remind children not to open their lunch boxes until they are in the cafeteria.
- Ensure that wrappings and leftovers are only disposed of in proper receptacles
Building principals will be notified directly if there are additional steps which need to be taken in their school.
As always, our top priority is to ensure a safe and healthy environment for all of our students and staff. We appreciate your cooperation in keeping our schools clean and reducing possible attractions for mice.
South Orange Maplewood School District
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SOMSD Pest Management
The district uses three steps approach to manage pests in our Integrated Pest Management Plan:
The first step is to monitor and identify pests. Pest control logs are available in the main office of each school. When a sighting or area of concern is identified, the information is placed in the log. On a regular schedule, a vendor comes in and treats the areas reported in the log.
Measures have been stepped up in areas designated for food consumption and large group areas will always be assumed as an area of concern. Custodians are being instructed to list pest sightings or evidence of pest sightings in the logs.
The number one rule to managing pests is to limit food consumption to designated areas of the buildings. In addition to limiting food sources (pests are attracted to food) throughout the building, the district re-organized custodial services to improve the cleanliness of the buildings.
In addition to the Health Departments request to limit food consumption in the classrooms, the district has been:
- Cleaning out the inside of all motorized equipment such as vending machines.
- Thoroughly cleaning cafeteria equipment and floors.
- Installing exterior first floor screens to prevent mice from penetrating buildings through ventilator ducks.
- Continuing to seal holes and cracks to prevent mice from penetrating buildings.
The district is increasing the frequency of treatment across all buildings.
PHOTO: Courtesy of PestKill.org.