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Cockroaches are a problem in this Wichita magnet school’s kitchen

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The Kansas Department of Agriculture shared their top critical violations found during routine inspections at restaurants and grocery stores in Kansas. Critical violations can contribute to foodborne illness.
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The Kansas Department of Agriculture shared their top critical violations found during routine inspections at restaurants and grocery stores in Kansas. Critical violations can contribute to foodborne illness.

There’s a cockroach problem in a Wichita magnet school’s kitchen. But the district says the infestation poses no health risk to students.

Gordon Parks Academy, at 25th Street North and Grove, was deemed out of compliance with the state’s food handling rules in April and again in early May after inspectors saw live roaches scurrying about and stuck on glue traps in areas where food is stored. That’s according food safety and lodging inspection reports posted on the Kansas Department of Agriculture’s website. The records are open to the public.

Cockroaches and their droppings can trigger allergic reactions and asthma attacks and spread diseases and bacteria like salmonella and staphylococcus, according to the Environmental Protection Agency webpage called “Cockroaches and Schools.” The insects are most active at night and like dark, damp places.

Children are especially susceptible to reactions, the webpage says.

Wichita public schools spokeswoman Susan Arensman said by email that the bugs aren’t endangering students because only prepackaged foods are stored at the school. The rest is prepared at the district’s Food Production Center and dropped off every day.

Under the state’s food safety rules, businesses that serve food to the public are supposed to keep their premises free of insects, rodents and other pests. A cockroach infestation is considered a critical violation.

“Food safety is a number one priority,” Arensman said, adding that the district’s food service workers clean regularly to prevent hazardous lunchroom conditions.

“The District’s pest control department is also very diligent in making sure issues like this are treated seriously,” she said.

Gordon Parks Academy, 2201 E. 25th St. North, is a K-8 media arts magnet school. It opened in 2008 and serves about 385 students.

An inspector who went to the school on April 26 noted seeing a half a dozen live cockroaches on site, including one crawling behind a kitchen ice bin, according to an inspection report. Others were stuck to glue traps by a milk case and under a food storage rack in a stock room.

There was a dead roach stuck on a log posted on a kitchen wall that records when the school receives pest control treatments, the inspection report says.

Staff told the inspector they’d noticed cockroaches three days prior — on April 23 — and had an exterminator out the next day.

But that didn’t fix the problem.

On May 6, the school was deemed out of compliance again after an inspector saw a cockroach “crawling on the wall directly behind (the) kitchen ice bin,” an inspection report says. That day staff told the inspector the vermin were probably drawn to a leak at the ice bin or the floor drain. An exterminator treated the kitchen once after the April 26 inspection and was supposed to do it a second time, staff told the inspector.

But no one knew whether that second visit had happened. And the pest control log wasn’t up to date, the report says.

If there is an infestation, a business is supposed to get rid of critters by routinely inspecting the area and incoming food and supply shipments, using pest control and eliminating conditions that draw them, according to the Kansas Food Code.

Arensman said the food service workers have daily, weekly and monthly cleaning tasks and look for pests every day. The district’s pest control department also treats buildings every month, she said.

“If a pest sighting is reported, a school is checked and retreated by the district,” Arensman said.

Lately, staff at Gordon Parks “has been more intense” with everyday cleaning and pest monitoring and the district’s pest control department is visiting daily, she said.

The school wasn’t the only place with cockroach problems in April, a check of other out-of-compliance inspection reports show.

A complaint-driven inspection at Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen, 11711 E. 13th St., on April 24 found “approximately 7 live cockroaches under the opening of the bar area.” The restaurant had an exterminator out that morning, an employee told the inspector who went there. It was deemed in compliance during a follow-up visit on May 14.

On April 4, an inspector found a live adult cockroach on a basement stairwell wall and “both live and dead cockroaches of various life stages” stuck to two glue traps at Dragon City Chinese Restaurant, 3008 W. Central. At that time, the restaurant’s last pest control visit had been on March 18. The inspector also noted that there was “no evidence of rodent or fly activity” that day. On Wednesday morning, the April 4 inspection report was the restaurant’s most recent posted on the Kansas Department of Agriculture’s website.

On April 10, an inspector found about 20 live cockroaches on walls, the bed, floor and door and “over 100 dead cockroaches” on the floor of room 126 at the White Glove Inn, 11430 W. Kellogg. Despite clean-up efforts, the motel remained out of compliance on April 23 after an inspector saw two live cockroaches crawling on the same room’s bathroom walls.

And WoodSpring Suites-Wichita Airport, 7525 W. Taft, was deemed out of compliance after an inspection found dead cockroaches behind a headboard and a bed bug on a bed skirt cover on April 25. The hotel remained out of compliance on May 6, but bugs weren’t among violations noted.

Every month, The Wichita Eagle curates a database of non-compliant food and lodging inspection reports that you can search using keywords like roach or mold or bedbug, by business name or address, or by date. To see the violations at all establishments, simply hit the search button.

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When is a business out of compliance?

It’s common for businesses to have some violations during an inspection. The number and kind of violations discovered, though, determine whether a business appears on the non-compliant list.

A business is considered out of compliance if an inspector finds three or more priority violations — those that directly affect the prevention of food-borne illnesses — or five or more priority foundation violations — issues that could lead to problems preventing food-borne illnesses. Both types are considered critical violations, which require immediate attention.

A business is also out of compliance if it has a problem that isn’t or can’t be corrected immediately in front of an inspector, like a plumbing problem. Businesses found to be non-compliant are required to have follow-up inspections.

Inspectors also note what’s known as core violations on their reports. Those are problems that aren’t considered critical.

The frequency of inspections depends on the type of facility. Most restaurants are inspected once every 12 to 18 months. All establishments are inspected when they open as part of the licensing process and also when someone complains about conditions.

Inspections can take place at any time, and follow-up inspections take place if violations aren’t corrected on site immediately.

How to complain about conditions

You can complain about a Kansas food establishment by sending an email to kda.fsl@ks.gov or by calling 785-564-6767.

To file a confidential food safety complaint involving illness, call the Kansas Department of Health and Environment Infectious Disease Epidemiology and Response at 877-427-7317 or email EpiHotline@kdheks.gov.

Food establishments include grocery stores, gas stations and convenience stores, senior meal sites, mobile food units, restaurants and schools. Food processors include wholesalers, warehouses, packers and manufacturers. Lodging establishments include hotels and motels, boarding houses and any other operation that charges for sleeping accommodations.

You can learn more about Kansas’ lodging and food safety laws here.

Amy Renee Leiker has been reporting for The Wichita Eagle since 2010. She covers crime, courts and breaking news and updates the newspaper’s online databases. You can reach her at 316-268-6644. She’s an avid reader and mom of three in her non-work time.


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