Bat-infested Bay Elementary hunkers down
The battle of the bats continues at Bay Elementary.
Teachers have been instructed to close their doors during class so no bats can get in. The principal and her assistant have temporarily set up office at a table in the library -- "bat central" -- where they can keep an eye out for bats. Radios have been issued to key staff so bat-sightings can be reported to the bat-catchers, and maintenance workers are on bat patrol, checking restrooms, halls and even walls throughout the school day.
"We feel pretty certain that there's not going to be anything that can make its way down there to the classrooms during the school day," says Principal Erin Tite on a video that the Clear Creek Independent has posted on the school's Web site.
Some parents aren't taking any chances. On Wednesday, the day some parents had called for a sickout, there were 59 absences, and today there were 47. That compares to 40 or so on a usual day, out of an enrollment of 735 students, said CCISD spokeswoman Elaina Polsen.
Commenting on a blog post about the bat flap on Ultimate Clear Lake's site earlier this week, parents' reactions to the bat invasion ran the gamut.
One reader identifying herself as Me wrote about her rabies concerns and suggested the school should be closed for a long weekend while bats are shooed away:
"I do not worry about the bats flying in the school as much as a child's reaction (batting it toward another student inadvertently or what not) or a bat trying to keep warm in these cool temperatures and burying itself in a desk, bookshelf, cupboard etc and being startled when someone...young or old...reach in and it will do what it naturally does to defend itself.
Another reader who signed on as ActualWorkingMom was alarmed by the suggestion that the school should be closed:
"I just think that some of these parents are over-reacting . . . If they're worried, keep the kids home. The school would have to shut down for WEEKS!! So then what? Teachers don't get paid for that time off? Summer plans for traveling get messed up? Parents would have to find a place to send their kid all day if they did shut down the school."
Someone who works at the school, BayFacultyMember, wrote:
"I have been at the school every day throughout this ordeal. It has been emotionally draining. However, I and the rest of the Bay faculty continue to be dedicated and professional. We are trying to ignore the nasty emails, facebook posts, and text messages that we are receiving along with the Bay parents. By the way, I am NOT being instructed to keep quiet. That is ridiculous! The faculty of Bay Elementary are intelligent people who deserve some respect through this trying ordeal."
In the last week, more than 90 bats have been caught and released outside, but school officials said no bats were seen during an inspection Wednesday morning. After school, five were spotted in the mechanical room of the gym, which is closed off from the rest of the school, Polsen said. On Thursday, some bats were seen in the closed-off area, but not in the main part of the school, she said.
In addition to the gym, the cafeteria has been closed since a bat flew over the heads of kids eating lunch on Feb. 17. Other entry points have been taped off or covered with netting, and a hospital-grade disinfectant was pumped through the school's ventilation system last weekend to both kill germs and make the bats' stay an unpleasant one.
School and health officials, however, acknowledge it could take three weeks to get rid of the remaining bats, because some may be hibernating during the cold snap. Once they waken and leave in search for food and water, the netting should prevent the bats from getting back in, school officials say.
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