Officials trap colony of bats in elementary school ceiling

PAROWAN – Halloween arrived early this year for one elementary school after school officials sealed a colony of bats in the building’s ceiling, resulting in approximately 100 dead bats having to be removed.

A hole in the wall that maintenance workers at Parowan Elementary created to look for the remains of any dead bats, Parowan, Utah, Oct. 10, 2015 | Photo by Devan Chavez, St. George News
A hole in the wall that maintenance workers at Parowan Elementary created to look for the remains of any dead bats, Parowan, Utah, Oct. 10, 2015 | Photo by Devan Chavez, St. George News

The bats first arrived at Parowan Elementary School approximately two weeks ago, Kevin Porter, the school’s principal, said, adding that their arrival was not unforeseen.

Each year around this time, Porter said, groups of migrating bats arrive and roost at the school; as well as other schools and buildings in the Iron County area.

“This has kind of been an ongoing situation for two or three years,” Porter said. “We’ve been having them come in the north side of our building; but they’ve been pretty much on the outside.”

This year, he said, after the bats had already arrived, school officials tried to prevent them from entering the building by sealing off a small half-inch gap in the roof flashing – using 90-degree metal trim and caulk.

The barrier was installed in the middle of the day, Porter said, which resulted in some of the bats already inside being trapped inside the ceiling of a single-hallway containing second, third and fourth grade classrooms.

When officials learned the animals were trapped, he said, they contacted the Southwest Utah Public Health Department, the Iron County School District Office and Utah Department of Wildlife Resources to help assess the situation and ensure there were no present dangers to children, faculty or staff.

The 90-degree metal trim the workers used to seal off the gap into the building trapped a colony of bats inside, Parowan, Utah, Oct. 10, 2015 | Photo by Devan Chavez, St. George News
The 90-degree metal trim the workers used to seal off the gap into the building trapped a colony of bats inside, Parowan, Utah, Oct. 10, 2015 | Photo by Devan Chavez, St. George News

Once they concluded there were no serious health risks, Porter said, maintenance crews and other workers began removing the bats – all of which had already died – from the crawl spaces and other areas in the ceiling.

“We did have some that fell into the door jamb after they had died,” Porter said. “So we were getting quite a bit of odor right there.”

While the smell was one of the main concerns, he said, as of Monday it is believed all of the dead bats had been removed, and – thanks to some large industrial fans – the smell has begun to fade away.

During the whole process, five total classrooms have been affected, Porter said, and the only time the classes had been disrupted was for a one-hour time period on Monday when maintenance workers came into the classroom to check the inside of the door jamb area for any remaining bats.

To ensure the students’ parents and guardians were kept informed about the situation, Porter said, he wrote a letter Thursday and sent it home with each student.

“The health department, fish and game department and the district office have all assessed the problem,” he said in the letter, “and concluded the measures we are taking are appropriate and effective.”

“Sealing them up in there probably wasn’t the best,” he said. “We should have allowed (a way) for them to get out. “

Workers installed large fans to circulate the air in the hallway to help get rid of the smell of any remaining dead bats, Parowan, Utah, Oct. 10, 2015 | Photo by Devan Chavez, St. George News
Workers installed large fans to circulate the air in the hallway to help get rid of the smell of any remaining dead bats, Parowan, Utah, Oct. 10, 2015 | Photo by Devan Chavez, St. George News

According to Wild Aware Utah, ways to prevent bats from roosting in your home or property include: cooling attics with fans to make it uncomfortable for any bats; inspect the outside of the building for holes or gaps and sealing them; and if you believe there are already some bats inside the building, placing bird netting over the openings will allow the existing bats to leave, but not reenter again.

While most bats do not carry rabies, those who are bitten or scratched are urged to seek immediate medical attention. According to the Center for Disease Control, it is not possible to tell if a bat has rabies just by looking at it, so take precaution and never handle a bat on your own.

A total of approximately 100 dead bats had been removed from the ceiling and crawlspaces, Porter said. After a final sweep on Monday, he believes the school is likely finally bat-free.

Any parents or guardians who have any questions or concerns about the bats or the state of the school and classrooms, Porter said, can call the school office at 435-477-3368.

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1 Comment

  • Common Sense October 13, 2015 at 7:26 am

    Poor bats. How can you prevent something that already started happening? If they knowingly seal in the bats then they knowingly trapped and kill them. Perhaps next time they could actually “prevent” the situation in the first place. This seems like a poorly executed plan by our “officials”.

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