Norfolk’s Acting Superintendent says district should have communicated rodent issues sooner

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NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — The leader of Norfolk’s school system admitted parents and staff at Sherwood Forest Elementary School should have been notified earlier of the rodent infestation inside the building.

“If the parents are concerned with not having any notification, then we need to acknowledge that”, said Acting Superintendent Dr. Sharon Byrdsong. “I am a parent myself. If parents feel like we should have properly informed them or given them more notification then certainly we should have.”

Byrdsong made the comments Wednesday night at the Norfolk School Board meeting. It follows a heated meeting the night before in which parents shouted down her two deputy superintendents over the communication delay.

It was on October 8 that an automated voice message went home to parents detailing that Sherwood Forest Elementary “experienced some pest control issues recently.” However, it wasn’t until October 11 that the district revealed those “issues” had turned into a “low to moderate infestation of rodents.”

Byrdsong said she became aware of the situation on September 27, once eradication efforts were already being planned by outside contractors.

“There is no indication at this time that Sherwood Forest Elementary School is not safe for students to occupy,” Byrdsong said. “I would not subject any staff member to unsafe working conditions.”

Teachers speaking to 10 On Your Side under the condition of anonymity had a different view.

They described working in classrooms overcome with the smell of rat urine and feces. Pictures taken from inside show chewed through drop ceiling panels as well as damaged school supplies. There were also concerns of mold.

Parents spoke in front of the board with continued demands for the school to be shut down until the issues are fixed.

“(A) contractor has reported no rodent activity on the exterior of the building of the last 10 days,” Byrdsong said. “The results of this indoor environmental quality assessment indicated that the identified area of concern had no presence of active mold, nor were conditions conducive to mold growth.”

Byrdsong said additional air quality tests have been ordered building wide in an effort to ease parent concerns.

“We just have to answer there concerns and follow through on our promises, that’s what we have to do.”

School board member Tanya Bhasin requested that in the future there be a way for parents to see a school building condition’s status online.

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