Bed bugs found at Gloversville High School

Single individual bugs, no infestation

GLOVERSVILLE — Gloversville Enlarged School District officials say there have been five instances in which a single bed bug has been found at the high school this school year in individual incidents that were each addressed according to federal guidelines immediately following the discoveries.

In a letter on the GESD website on Jan. 18, Gloversville High School Principal Richard DeMallie said there have been five reports in which a single bed bug was discovered in the building this school year.

Each time a bed bug was discovered, DeMallie said the room was cleared of students and staff as quickly as possible and a custodian was notified to inspect the area and perform a thorough cleaning of the entire room.

Custodians returned to the affected rooms to perform a second cleaning after school and the district’s pest management company, Orkin, was called on two occasions to treat areas with a pesticide approved for public school application as a precaution according to integrated pest management protocols.

“In each case, a single bed bug was identified and no further evidence of bed bugs or other pests were detected,” DeMallie stated.

DeMallie went on to say that Orkin visits all district schools on a monthly basis to inspect for bed bugs and other pests and no signs of an infestation of any sort have been detected.

GESD Superintendent David Halloran confirmed on Monday there have not been any other reported cases of bed bugs at district buildings this school year. He added that the five bed bugs found at the high school are not indicative of an issue at the school.

“I have not had anything reported on any other building. We’re confident that we don’t have any infestation. They are travellers and hitchhikers,” Halloran said. “Every time we’ve had a confirmed case of a single bed bug we have found we’re taking all the recommended precautions.”

Halloran noted that school buildings and furniture do not offer the optimum living conditions for bed bugs, saying their presence in schools typically occurs when they are carried into buildings on the clothing or belongings of individuals.

“This is something that is not a problem at Gloversville High School, it’s a problem that some people have in their homes,” Halloran said. “We have 800 students attending the high school on a regular basis, not to mention faculty and staff, and I think on any given day any school could have a situation like Gloversville had.”

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency website, “A school is not an ideal place for bed bugs, but it can serve as a hub for their travel to other locations, including homes. Bed bugs are brought into buildings on personal belongings.”

Additionally, the EPA states that bed bugs are not known to transmit or spread disease, but may cause itchy bites and generally irritate human hosts.

The district’s protocol to address the insect sightings follows EPA recommendations, including working discreetly with students and their families if a bed bug is observed on their clothing or belongings and inspecting and isolating their items to reduce the chance of bed bugs spreading until the problem is resolved.

“We have a few students who probably have a problem in their home,” Halloran said. “We’re obviously trying to work through that with families while protecting their confidentiality.”

“The law is pretty clear we can’t and we wouldn’t want to keep a kid out of school over concerns about that,” he added.

The district is also following EPA recommendations in notifying students, parents and staff members of the discovered bugs as Halloran said transparency is a priority so families can take precautions to reduce their likelihood of coming into contact with the insects.

“We’re trying to do our best to be communicative,” Halloran said. “I totally understand that people do not like to hear about it, but it is a fact of life that we will continue to address at every opportunity.”

To prevent the spread of bed bugs, Halloran said students and parents should inspect coats and backpacks regularly and students should refrain from bringing extra items to school, especially items that create hospitable environments for bed bugs such as blankets.

“There’s definitely precautions that people can take to lessen chances they will have contact,” Halloran said. “We’re following all the recommended best practices.”

Halloran hopes area residents will also follow another recommendation from the EPA to schools not to overreact to individual bed bug sightings in school buildings.

“We’re not trying to make light of it, because it is a valid concern,” Halloran said. “But it shouldn’t be the perception of what transpires in our buildings and this certainly doesn’t define us or what we’re doing here.”

Additional information on bed bugs, including recommended management methods, can be found online at epa.gov/bedbugs.