‘I mean, it’s just nasty,’ parent says of rodent infestation at VA elementary school

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NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Parents say school leaders appear to be downplaying the rodent infestation currently plaguing Sherwood Forest Elementary School.

Jessica Morgan said she received an automated call from Norfolk Public Schools on Tuesday night that her 7-year-old son’s school had “experienced some pest control issues recently,” and that were being “addressed by the custodial staff, professional contract services, and NPS’ certified employees for pest control.”

Morgan said “some” pest control issues is downplaying what she has seen and heard from people in the days since.

“I mean it’s just nasty,” Morgan said.

She has spoken to teachers who describe working in classrooms overcome with the smell of rat urine and feces. Pictures taken from inside show chewed through drop ceiling panels and staff members, speaking to 10 On Your Side under the condition of anonymity, say school supplies have also been damaged because of the rodents.

Staff members also tell 10 On Your Side that people have been getting sick and there is also a mold problem.

“My son has asthma and allergies really bad so, it’s just, it’s just nasty. Who would want their kids to be in an environment like that?” Morgan said. “Unsafe for the kids and also the staff.”

Upon WAVY’s inquiry, the Norfolk School District didn’t make anyone available to answer further questions, but did release the following:

“Sherwood Forest Elementary School experienced some pest control issues recently that are being addressed by the custodial staff, professional contract services, and NPS’ certified employees for pest control.

It was established that there was a low to moderate infestation of rodents in the school beginning mid-September. NPS is aggressively addressing it through our staff, and two contracted services to speed up the eradication. Risk Management performed air quality tests in multiple rooms and we’re awaiting the assessment results.

The treatment being done is in accordance with the Va. Dept. of Agriculture that governs the processes and procedures you can perform in a public building. We will have a site visit next week from a representative with the Va. Dept. of Agriculture to evaluate our processes and ensure it is in compliance with their regulations and provide support as needed.

The custodial staff will be in the school this weekend to thoroughly sanitize the school to continue and ensure a safe and clean learning environment.”

Norfolk Public Schools

Morgan said it is ridiculous that parents didn’t know about it until this week, if the problem started in September.

Norfolk School Board Chair Dr. Noëlle M. Gabriel didn’t return calls for comment.

“Since school started the nurse (may) have called me … about 4 and 5 times about (my son) coughing or his stomach hurt(ing)… I am very disappointed in the school,” Morgan said.

Staff said that the principal has been sounding the alarm for some time about the 62-year-old building’s condition, but they say nothing much has been done until recently. Even now contractors are making the learning environment dangerous with insulation and asbestos-laden tiles being removed during school hours.

“I mean, it’s just sad. Why not close the school down for the kids and their safety and their health,” Mogan said.

Sherwood Forest was one of 21 elementary schools in the city identified as “poor” in a 2017 condition assessment. At the time an outside firm estimated renovations would cost more than $11 million.

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