PARIS — Efforts continue this week to eradicate what has been called “excessive” presence of mice in the school’s kitchen that temporarily shut down the food service facilities.
Director of Facilities Dean Dillingham told the SAD 17 Board of Directors at its May 7 meeting that inspectors continue to monitor the situation and efforts to clean the kitchens and to trap the rodents continue. The three areas are the culinary arts kitchen a cafe run by the culinary students and the main cafeteria.
The problems were discovered on May 3 during a regular, unannounced visit by a health inspector. According to an email sent to parents on May 6, the health inspector returned the following day, May 4, and toured the facility with Dillingham and Nutrition Director Jodi Truman. It was then they found evidence of mice in the high school kitchen.
SAD 17 officials were then notified that the mice issue needs to be addressed immediately and that the three kitchen facilities at the high school would need to be cleaned professionally. The three kitchen facilities were shut down until the issue is fully resolved, Dillingham said.
Dillingham said they are now looking at the product in the kitchens and assessing what needs to be thrown out. More traps and monitoring stations have been set up as well.
The district was also expected to replace weather stripping on some doors this week and clean leaves outside of Culinary Arts by the loading dock that may harbor mice and survey teachers to see if there have been any other evidence of mice throughout the building.
The kitchens will have to be approved for reopening by state inspectors. Until that time, all food is being prepared at the Oxford Hills Middle School and transported to the high school for serving and alternative lunch and breakfast plans, including sandwiches, are being served.
Dillingham said that SAD 17 has an Integrated Pest Management Program and a contractor who inspects the food service area once a month and all other areas of the high school quarterly. The company also sets mice traps all over the schools.
When asked by Director Bob Jewell how the district could not have been aware of the pest problem, Dillingham said the pest control company inspects but communication may not always been as good as it should have been.
“We’ve learned from this,“ he said adding that there needs to be some “teaching” done as well to avoid future problems.
For the next couple of weeks the pest management company will increase its inspections to twice a week and it is recommended that future inspections be done on an increasing basis.
According to information the Maine School IPM Program of the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, the most persistent rodent pests in Maine schools are the house mouse, roof [black] rat and Norway [common] rat. Most problems can be prevented by landscape maintenance, good sanitation, pest proofing and monitoring with traps to catch them before they become a serious problem, according to program information.