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Bats return to Merrimack elementary school after $600k guano cleanup

By KIMBERLY HOUGHTON
Union Leader Correspondent

May 09. 2018 8:29PM




MERRIMACK — More bat problems are plaguing James Mastricola Upper Elementary School.

After recently spending $600,000 on remediation efforts to clean up bat guano at the local school, the bats returned this week.

On Tuesday, two bats were discovered flying around the building — one inside a classroom filled with children and another at the other end of the school.

“It is absolutely frustrating,” Assistant Superintendent Matt Shevenell said Wednesday. “That was a major (remediation) effort and this has nothing to do with the quality of the effort, but really the determination and pattern of the bats.”

Workers are installing at a cost of about $60,000 special tubes in all district schools with a single egress to the outside so that bats cannot return once they exit. Work is also underway to seal all exterior cracks, according to Shevenell.

The two bats discovered Tuesday were captured and removed. One of the bats likely came into the classroom from a hole discovered in a ceiling tile, he said, adding it is possible that the second bat entered the night prior when a gymnasium door was left open during an event.

The appearance of two bats on Tuesday comes after the district spent $600,000 to clean up bat guano at the school — $180,000 of that price was reimbursed by the state, which tapped a budget surplus to pay.

In December, a section of the school was sealed off and eight classrooms relocated during the bat guano cleanup. At the time, school officials said there was probably a colony of about 200 bats living in the school for about two years.

“All of the bats that were in that area were removed and gone because everything was stripped down — everything was gone,” stressed Shevenell. “What we are doing right now is going through every single building and making sure everything is sealed.”

A bat discovered Tuesday was located in one of the classrooms that had been temporarily closed for the remediation efforts, according to Shevenell.

Marsha McGill, principal at James Mastricola Upper Elementary School, sent home letters Tuesday to parents whose children were in a classroom with a bat.

“Our entire building is currently undergoing a remediation procedure to make sure no additional bats remain in the building. The procedure will be completed this week,” McGill wrote.

The room where the bat guano deposit was first discovered tested positive for cryptococcus neoformans, one of two types of bat spores. The other type, histoplasma, has more severe health hazards and was not discovered inside the school.

School officials explained earlier that students were not permitted back into those classrooms until recently, when no bat spores were detected.

Several parents expressed concerns in an online post about bats carrying rabies. Shevenell he said was unaware of any children being touched by either of the bats on Tuesday.

“I’m keeping my son home today until we hear no more bats,” said Melissa Warrington, a Merrimack parent, in an online forum. “I have given lots of rabies injections for bat exposure and it is not a pleasant experience.”

khoughton@newstote.com


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