Essex County News

Mice “Infestation” In Maplewood Schools Declared “Health Hazard” By Maplewood Officials

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Columbia High School is one of the South Orange Maplewood School District schools cited as having a "mouse infestation," according to Maplewood Health Officer, Robert Roe.
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Letter from Maplewood Health Officer (page 1)
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Letter from Maplewood Health Officer (page 2)
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Enclosure with letter from Maplewood Health Officer
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MAPLEWOOD AND SOUTH ORANGE, NJ - The South Orange Maplewood School District has a mice “infestation” in several district schools, which the Maplewood Township describes as “an immediate health hazard,” according to a letter from Township Health Officer Robert Roe to the district last month.

The letter, dated August 24, 2017, was sent by Roe to Interim Superintendent Thomas Ficarra and mentioned by Roe at last week’s Township Committee meeting.

The letter also criticizes the district’s current extermination company, stating the firm has “failed to do even (the) simple task” of cleaning up mice feces and that inspections have found “sticky traps are simply thrown on top of mouse feces that is already on the floor or shelf.”

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The apparent cause, according to Roe, is food being consumed in classrooms and other areas and not being properly stored or cleaned up.

The letter cited Maplewood Middle School and Columbia High School, as well as other unidentified elementary schools.

Roe’s letter states, in part:

“Inspections this spring and summer of elementary schools in Maplewood and the Maplewood Middle School and Columbia High School have shown infestations of mice in many classrooms, storage areas and cafeterias. This creates an immediate health hazard and is in violation of the Maplewood Board of Health Code and the NJ State Food Sanitation Code, NJAC 8:24. In addition to food contamination, mice droppings can be a trigger for asthma, allergies and other diseases.

“These infestations are not easily eliminated since food is found in many classrooms, storage areas, and of course the cafeterias. I understand that the Board of Education policy is to use what is called Integrated Pest Control Management for the schools. This method helps eliminate the need for the use of poisons. However, the first part of the integrated pest management is to remove the food source. This first part is not being followed since snacks and other foods are served regularly in classrooms. Teachers and staff also (understandably) keep snacks for themselves at their desks and closets.”

The letter added that, “our inspections have also shown what appears to be inadequate work by the current extermination company. On multiple occasions, we have instructed workers from this company to do specific clean up on mice feces and they failed to do even this simple task. Sticky traps are simply thrown on top of mouse feces that is already on the floor or shelf.”

Roe then went on to issue a notice to the school district ordering that:

  • Other than the cafeteria, no snacks or other foods are to be consumed in any rooms of the elementary, middle or Columbia High School in Maplewood whenever there is mice infestation anywhere in the building.
  • Cafeteria work and service and food preparation counters are to be cleaned and sanitized following each food service day.
  • Teachers may maintain a “small amount” of snacks for themselves in the rooms as long as the snacks are stored in metal or hard plastic containers that prevent mice entry.
  • YMCA after school must clean up foods each day.
  • Weekend or evening special programs must clean up all foods following the program. When possible, eating at these programs should be in the cafeteria.

The letter adds that steps need to be taken “immediately at the start of the fall 2017 school year and follow-up inspections will be done.”

District officials did not have an immediate response to a request for comment late Tuesday, but sent an email to the school community about the mice situation on Wednesday. TAPinto SOMA has also reached out to South Orange health officials to ask about those schools, with no response yet. 

So far, the district has yet to alert parents or residents to the problem or the apparent health hazard.

The SOMSD sent an email "Combatting Mice in SOMSD Schools" to the school community at about 1 p.m. on Wednesday, September 13. Read the email here.

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This article was updated at 1:15 p.m. on Wednesday, September 13.

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