10Listens: Answering concerns after bats found inside Maury Middle School

April 18, 2017: Officials are trying to figure out how several bats made their way into a Jefferson County middle school.

DANDRIDGE, TN - Jefferson County School officials are working to determine how a number of bats made their way into Maury Middle School.

The school system's facilities director, Michael Phagan, confirmed administrators had found a total of four bats inside the building since the school first notified them about the issue in late March. Three of those bats were alive when they were discovered.

Administrators originally believed the bats had entered the building through gaps near the vents, and have since sealed off those entry points. However, after finding and removing two of the bats on Tuesday morning, Phagan told 10News they are now considering any possible access points that had been overlooked.

"There's only two ways those bats were in there," he said. "Either we trapped them when we were closing things off, or there's another point of entry that didn't identify itself yet."

On Wednesday, Phagan said he returned to the building to reinspect the classrooms before students arrived, and found no bats inside.


He believes 20 to 25 bats are currently roosting just outside the school's roof. Contractors on Wednesday inspected the roof to investigate and seal off any potential entry points into the building from there. 

The latest discovery comes after a teacher came in contact with one of the bats last week while trying to remove it. 

"There was a teacher who was trying to be helpful, and humanely removed one of the bats. In trying to remove the bat, she got snipped at. My understanding is it didn't even break the skin," Phagan said.

The school system hired a contractor to remediate the building over the weekend and remove any ceiling tiles with bat droppings. Phagan said administrators were working with the company, Clean Reflections, to monitor bat activities and identify how the animals entered the building.

Officials plan to inspect rooms daily before students arrive and continue to check ceiling tiles for droppings. They're also in the midst of organizing air quality testing. 

One parent reached out to 10News with concerns about possible health issues, saying her son had suffered lung problems at the school over the past month. According to the Center for Disease Control, bat droppings could contain infectious spores that can become airborne and get into lungs when disturbed, causing a disease called Histoplasmosis.

When 10News took that concern to Phagan, he responded by ensuring contractors had used a high efficiency air purification system called a HEPA filter while handling the bat droppings.

He also said contractors did not use any chemicals to clean out the droppings. Instead, they simply removed the affected ceiling tiles and replaced them with new tiles.

Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency spokesperson Matt Cameron said only 0.5 percent of all bats carry rabies, making exposure to the disease rare.

© 2017 WBIR.COM


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