RARITAN TWP., NJ – Mice have been found in dozens of classrooms at Robert Hunter School this month, and documents claim that School Nurse Susanna Cunniff “is expressing concerns that a number of our classrooms may be unhealthy for the students and teachers.”
Alliance Commercial Pest Control, an exterminator hired by the district, wrote in a May 4 memo to the school that Robert Hunter “has had off and on issues with rodent activity” in classrooms, the main office, kitchen and storage areas.
Alliance account manager Stephanie Anderson wrote that, “Mice are generally removed from the kitchen and faculty lounge during each monthly visit.” She also stated that “the school is very well maintained ... and all of the floors are kept very clean.”
Improper food storage seems to be a big part of the mice problem and something school staff has worked to correct.
On Monday, schools Superintendent Dr. Maryrose Caulfield updated county health officials who will conduct their own inspection of the school. That is scheduled for May 16.
“All members of your community at the Robert Hunter School must take an active role to ensure the success of the plan to minimize the small rodent population,” county Health Inspector Daniel Wyckoff told the school in his report Tuesday. He said the school has “already taken the necessary steps to begin to eliminate the rodent activity.”
The information comes from documents released by the district in response to TAPinto's Open Public Records Act request submitted Tuesday.
A log book of mice complaints shows the rodents have been reported this year in the gym office, faculty room, main office conference room, principal’s office, classrooms, school counselor’s office, hallways, nurses office and art room.
The kitchen and food preparation areas are apparently safe. The most recent county health inspection was conducted Jan. 20. It found no problems and assigned a rating of “Satisfactory Gold,” the highest rating awarded by the county.
A memo to parents issued Monday from Caulfield said that “there has not been any evidence of mice in or around the cafeteria.”
Some of the exterminator’s recommendations, which include installing new reinforced door sweeps, sealing of holes and vent screening, have been implemented by Flemington staff, the reports state.
Another recommendation identified nine vents – one as large as 75 by 39 inches – that require installing fine mesh “to prevent mice entry,” but the documents don’t indicate whether the work was assigned.
Last weekend, the pest control service placed more than 100 baited snap traps; the traps caught eight mice and were removed before students and staff returned on Monday, according to a memo to parents from Caulfield.
On Saturday, the school’s Custodial Services Manager and 15 employees from Aramark – the district’s provider of custodial services – performed extensive cleaning in high priority areas. The cleaning included vacuuming above and underneath carpets, and then shampooing them using state-approved products.
Recent reports show 14 mice were caught this week at the school. Comments in the logbook that predate the recent remediation efforts are disturbing.
“Teachers are finding teaching supplies covered with droppings and urine. We will need these supplies replaced,” a May 3 entry claims.
A May 2 entry reports “the staff is stating that their classrooms are not clean and probably full of germs.”
“As you can see from some of the pictures it is now causing us to dispose of contaminated/damaged property,” a May 2 entry states. “We continue to be concerned now more than ever not only for the staff's health but the kids as well. There are droppings not only where they sit on the rug but in and around the book bins in which the children peruse for books daily. One can only assume the droppings will find there way into the cubbies the children use to house their lunch boxes. We fear the rodents have the ability to find there way into the students book bags and jackets that at time find there way to the floor where we have also spotted droppings.
“Despite not being our job, we have spent lunch and prep periods trying to clean up a situation that is unmanageable when the next day is met with more droppings. We do not keep food stored in our room and it is unrealistic for anyone to think there could never be crumbs in the room because of this type of community where people work and learn throughout an 8 hour period. This is beyond disturbing.”
The documents also reveal that there have been complaints from parents.
In an interview, Dr. Caulfield said the district strives to be “completely transparent” regarding the issue and in a memo assured parents that “the same attention is paid to all schools in our district.”
District Administrator Stephanie Voorhees said that all schools maintain rodent log books and that they “are available for public viewing at any time.”