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Curtis Middle School trying to oust colony of bats

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013, at 6:47 p.m.

A small colony of bats has been discovered inside Curtis Middle School, and district officials say they’re working to get rid of the critters.

“For some reason, they have taken a liking to Curtis,” Tim Phares, director of environmental services for Wichita schools, said Thursday.

“We occasionally have one bat fly into a building, and we just go and remove it,” he said. “But we’ve had more at Curtis than I can recall at one time. … They like it here, but we don’t want them.”

District crews so far have removed more than a dozen bats – most of them from classrooms – at the school near Lincoln and Edgemoor in southeast Wichita. Several teachers have seen them perched in high corners of their classrooms or tucked behind posters tacked to the walls. One was discovered in a trash can.

One teacher took a photo of two bats hanging – silently, creepily, matter-of-factly – beside a poster about adverbs.

Two classrooms that share an exterior wall have been vacated while maintenance and pest-control crews try to find and remove all the bats and patch any openings where they might be entering the building.

Like field mice, bats seek warm places to hang out when the weather turns cold, Phares said.

“They’re like pigeons in this city,” he said. “We think the main cause of entry has been sealed, but there may be some other areas where they could be getting in.

“So even as we speak, we’re looking at trying to plug those openings to keep our little pesky friends away.”

Phares said the animals, thought to be little brown bats, haven’t caused any major problems but are a disturbing and distracting oddity. The bats are about the size of a human hand, but they can compress their bodies to a half-inch thickness and squeeze through tiny openings, he said.

“It’s been a nuisance,” Phares said.

“I think we’ve got most if not all of them dealt with, but we’re pretty certain there’s more openings. In the district vs. bats issue, the bats are going to be persistent.”

Once the bats are removed and openings sealed, Phares said he will order an environmental assessment of the building.

“We have had pigeons get into buildings and leave feathers and droppings. They tend to get into things, and so we clean those out,” he said. Crews performed an air-quality test at Curtis on Thursday.

Curtis principal Stephanie Wasko said that a couple weeks ago, some teachers “were hearing a little bit of screeching and thought there might be something” inside the walls or ceiling tiles. So far, 15 bats have been captured and removed, she said.

“The bats are not aggressive. They basically are hiding,” Wasko said.

Students have been “pretty easy-going. They’ve not been too worried about it. … It really hasn’t raised a lot of interest other than curiosity about what bats eat, that kind of thing.”

Wasko said she hasn’t had to deal with a bat infestation before. But she’s a middle school principal, she said, and “interesting things happen.”

Reach Suzanne Perez Tobias at 316-268-6567 or stobias@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @suzannetobias.

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