Bats force closure of Dutchtown High gym

Published: Mar. 29, 2014 at 12:50 AM CDT
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Gutters being removed
Gutters being removed
Entrance to gym
Entrance to gym

DUTCHTOWN, LA (WAFB) - Police tape blocks the entrance to the gym at Dutchtown High School, but the problem is not who they're trying to keep out. It's what they can't get rid of inside.

"As I seen it, it moved so quick. Everybody was scared of it, but it wasn't really that frightening to me," said junior Brenden Delmore.

Chad Lynch oversees maintenance for the Ascension Parish School System. He says their facilities have seen all sorts of pests over the years, but none as stubborn as what's squeezing in behind the gym's gutters. The building also houses the band and choir rooms.

"I don't know when they come and go, but I just know they're hard to get rid of," Lynch said.

"The professionals told us that the bats need a rough surface to climb up behind the gutter, and if you put something smooth they couldn't get up there. So we spent a lot of money to put that surface behind all the gutters last year. This year we're trying a different approach that's being recommended to us. We're trying to take the gutter away, basically trying to take their home away."

For whatever reason, Mexican free-tailed bats (also known as Brazilian free-tailed bats) have settled in here, and they're not very eager to leave. What they leave behind is called guano - bat droppings - and it can eventually pose a health hazard.

"Some of the staff is bothered by it, especially near the band room. The band room is the area where they sometimes have been able to get through the gutter and into the building," Lynch said.

During an inspection on Thursday the Department of Health and Hospitals recommended the building be closed until the problem is resolved. The school voluntarily complied.

The bats must be removed humanely, and the school system has already spent at least $18,000 dollars trying to flush them out.

"They're considered a nuisance animal and they're also protected, so there are some rules that you'll find when you talk to Wildlife and Fisheries about how you handle bats and who is supposed to handle the bats. We have to hire licensed pest control operators," Lynch said.

Ken Pastorick, DHH's public information officer, released the following statement:

"Experts from the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals and the LSU Agriculture Center are working closely with Dutchtown High School to ensure bats are eradicated from the school building which houses the gym, band and choir rooms, and that bat feces, better known as guano, is properly cleaned up. Thursday, during a DHH inspection of the building, at the urging of state officials and in the best interest of the health and welfare of students and faculty, school administrators voluntarily closed the building until the problem is resolved."

School officials say there has never been a threat to students or staff, and that they're working as quickly as possible to get rid of the bats.

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