Officials address ratty problem

JONESBORO — Officials said they attempted to respond to a suspected rodent problem at Jonesboro High earlier this month. But apparently they were not quick enough in resolving the issue.

School spokeswoman Vicki Gavalas said the district received inquiries from news media regarding a rat infestation. She said the questions were based on a photo of a rat under a table allegedly sent by a student.

She acknowledged an issue existed pertaining to rodent activity but she said the issue was being handled before the inquiries. She added the photo may not have been authentic.

“We contend that it was not taken at Jonesboro High School,” she said. “We could not confirm that the photo sent to them by the student was actually taken at JHS. There is nothing at the school remotely resembling the table or floor in the school.”

Gavalas said the district learned about potential rodent activity at the high school May 2.

She said the school, which scored 95 on its March 3 inspection, received a “notice of violation” that day from the Clayton County Board of Health.

There was evidence of rodent droppings and a rodent sighting by students, said Gavalas, adding that district maintenance personnel “hired an outside agency to inspect and rid the building of any rodent activity.”

She said the firm, ABC’s Home & Commercial Services, is continuing surveillance of the building to ensure that the pests are eradicated.

“In keeping with our practice of transparency, school administrators sent a letter home to parents on Monday, May 5, and followed up with a call,” said Gavalas.

Principal Felicia Brown sent the notification.

Her letter dated May 5 read, in part: “When JHS administration was informed of the rodent activity, district management was immediately contacted. Precautionary measures were put in place to ensure the safety and security of students, faculty and community members… Lastly, we would like to (assure) you that this matter is being handled efficiently and effectively!”

Gavalas said news media inquiries began May 8 or May 9, around the time the school was set to undergo re-inspection by the Clayton County Board of Health.

A letter sent by one of the board’s environmental health specialists stated the follow-up visit revealed “no signs of rodent activity were seen in the cafeteria.”

Gavalas said she is unaware of any other such rodent activities in the district.

“Clayton County Public Schools is committed to having a safe, clean and healthy environment that is conducive for teaching and learning,” she said.