By ERIN ROLL
Staff at Montclair High School have reported that mice have been seen running through the school in significant numbers during the fall months, and that the level of mice is enough to pose a health and safety risk.
Interim Superintendent Nathan Parker confirmed that there had been reported mouse sightings at the high school, but he said that the number of sightings was not quite at the level of an infestation.
The head custodian at each school is that school’s integrated pest management coordinator, Parker said, and he said that each IPM coordinator just received additional training in 2018. Any reports of mice are written up in the school’s IPM log, Parker said.
Montclair High School is the most recent area of concern regarding mice, Parker said. The district had its pest control vendor set up snap traps at the school on Nov. 27 and on Dec. 3. “This was based on an increased number of reports of rodent sightings and dropping sightings,” Parker said.
Parker did not indicate that any other buildings in the district had reported having a mouse problem.
Beth Albert, communications chair of the Montclair Education Association, the teachers’ union, said there were reports of mice in at least five locations in the school: the special education/learning specialist office, the library, the security office, the English department office, and the guidance office. Those areas of the school are located throughout the school, on all three floors, Albert said.
Albert said inspectors from Public Employees Occupational Safety and Health (PEOSH) paid two visits to the school because of the mice, with one visit being a planned visit arranged with the school, and the other being an unannounced visit.
A report had been filed with PEOSH about the mice, Albert said. Parker confirmed that PEOSH had visited the school.
Albert said she was unaware if any of the other schools had reported seeing mice.
At the Dec. 16 Board of Education meeting, MEA vice chair Tom Manos said that the staff at the high school was upset over the health and safety issues posed by the mice.
Manos also alleged that in the wake of the reports about the mice, microwaves and refrigerators that were for staff use were removed from most areas of the school, except for in designated staff rooms, allegedly in retaliation for staff making reports about the mice.
Albert said PEOSH did not recommend removing refrigerators and microwaves as a remedy for the mouse problem.
When asked about the microwaves and refrigerators, and the staff allegations made during the BOE meeting, Parker stated that the Department of Education has a facilities checklist that outlines what equipment can, and cannot, be kept in the school.
The MEA also provided the board with photos that were reported to show damaged ceilings and mouse droppings.