EMS hopeful rat tale comes to a close

School infestation discovered last fall

Students at Earl Marriott Secondary are sharing the South Surrey school with uninvited visitors this year – rats.

Identified in the 15751 16 Ave. building last fall, the rodents became a growing concern in the spring, school district spokesman Doug Strachan confirmed Monday.

Initial strategies to address the problem “appeared to do the trick,” but had to be repeated around March, and then ramped up in late April-early May, when a larger problem was identified, Strachan said.

“There’s been progress. There’s fewer being caught or seen now,” he said. “Everything that can be done is being done at this point.”

According to information posted on the school website last month, officials are working with a pest-control company, the district’s facilities and health and safety departments, and Fraser Health to address the problem.

Parents are aware of the issue and have raised no concerns, Strachan added.

“There’s been positive feedback by the parents that it’s being managed appropriately.”

The strategy for addressing the problem to date has included an increase in pest-control visits to the site, from two or three times a week to at least five times a week.

As well, an extra custodian has been brought in to clean garbage outside the building; lunch hour garbage is being removed within 30 minutes; pea gravel is being placed around exterior walls to prevent rodent entry; and affected interior spaces are being sanitized on weekends.

Regular meetings with Fraser Health officials have determined the school has “the best cleanliness rating for a building of our size,” principal Peter Johnston’s online letter states. Both the cafeteria and home economics facilities have been deemed safe, it adds – a point Fraser Health spokesman Roy Thorpe-Dorward confirmed.

Health inspectors were last at the school May 13, Thorpe-Dorward said.

“It was a very good inspection and they received a low hazard rating,” he said. “They were doing all the right things.”

As long as an increase in the problem isn’t noted, the health authority will next inspect the school in early September, he said.

Strachan said the principal has also reported positive response from the students, who are “really getting” the need to not leave food and trash in the hallways.

Strachan noted rodent infestations are not unusual in buildings where there is a large amount of food. In his seven years with the district, he is aware of only three or four schools in which the problem was to a degree that pest control needed to be brought in.

In most cases, the issue is mice, he said.

“Considering we have 125 schools, it’s not that often,” Strachan said.

Student safety is “first and foremost,” he noted.

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