Kirby High School to close again Thursday due to ‘pest infestation’

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Kirby High School will close again Thursday as the school deal with a pest infestation, Shelby County Schools announced.

"Crews are making great progress and are now beginning the work of deep cleaning and renovation," the district said in a release Wednesday afternoon.

"We’re working closely with the health department to make sure the entire campus environment meets all standards for health and safety, and we’re hopeful the remaining work can be completed very soon. It’s important that we are totally sure the building is fit for students and staff to return so there are no further problems or disruptions to instruction."

Wednesday, county health inspectors were checking out Kirby High School after pest problems cancel class for a second day in a row.

The Shelby County School district admitted there is a pest infestation at the school, so they cancelled class to allow crews to "inspect the building and perform all of the necessary treatments."

Students told WREG they saw snakes in the art room last week and rats in the cafeteria and gym.

SCS won't tell us what was found in the building or where it is coming from.

"If you're not careful, especially mice, can outbreed your pest control efforts," said David Pence, the general manager of Allied Termite and Pest Control.

He's not the vendor now helping SCS tackle the critter issue, but gave us some insight.

"Something got in or maybe they had a shipment of something come in, and they shipped in some rodents, then one or two got loose," he said.

He said roof rats are the most widespread critter he sees in the Mid-South, and they can cause health concerns.

"The roof rats that come up the Delta and are in river towns are very smart. They are smaller. They climb, so they will climb trees and wires and then go onto a roof of a building," said Pence. "Most are going to be in the roof line, the cafeteria where the food is or the back doors in the back loading dock."

The EPA's website states rodents spread and carry more than 35 diseases through feces, urine, saliva or a bite.

"They are harder to deal with, because they are smart and they change on you," he said.

The Shelby County Health Department said the last inspection was Aug. 14, and "since the report of an infestation, they visited the school Tuesday."

They wouldn't agree to an interview to tell us what they saw, asking us to put in a formal records request, which could take days to get results.

They just said, "Kirby voluntarily closed their school and they have been cooperating."

Pence said pest controllers should be setting traps to catch the rodents instead of chemicals. He said you don't want to kill an animal crawling through the walls, because you don't know where it is and it will begin to smell.

"The rodents are making a comeback in Memphis, and they are huge and everywhere," he said. "Most school systems, most apartment complexes and most businesses have some kind of [pest prevention] program."

As soon as we get the inspector's report, we will let you know.

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