Bed bugs reported at second DC school

A second D.C. school is dealing with bed bugs this winter. And some parents are not happy with how the school has communicated with them about the repeated sightings.

The incidents at Miner Elementary School in Northeast D.C. come after the temporary closure of Savoy Elementary School in Southeast earlier this month. Crews are currently treating for bed bugs and rats on that campus.

Sade Thomas has three children at Miner. She believes all parents should be notified each time - and any time - bed bugs are spotted.

“Don't identify the child because he's innocent. But identify the problem. Like identify the problem for the whole school,” she said.

DCPS said it is actively communicating with families and school staff about three recent incidents of bed bugs at Miner on February 9th, 14th and 15th. But the school system said it does not believe there is a widespread infestation.

Miner's principal Andrea Mial sent a letter home to parents on Wednesday. The letter did not specifically acknowledge or detail these bed bug incidents but it broadly described school policy.

"If the pest identified is a bed bug… it is the school nurse's role to identify, notify, and educate affected students, parents, and staff on next steps and available resources," the letter said.

A DCPS spokesperson added that parents schoolwide are not always notified of bed bugs because "it's a private health matter."

“It's not private when it's been brought into a school that your child attends,” Thomas said. “This is a public school.”

According to exterminators, bed bug incidents are not uncommon, especially in dense, urban environments like D.C. They explain - whether in schools or other public buildings - where there are people, there are bed bugs.

But that's not very reassuring to parents at Miner Elementary, who complain of a lack of transparency.

“Bed bugs are scary and there's a stigma. And there's a lot of fear about extermination and health,” said Miner Elementary PTO member Holly Harper. “And if you don't trust that your leadership or your institution is telling you the truth and they're evasive, then it just becomes worse. It becomes a powder keg.”

The DCPS spokesperson emphasized the Miner bed bugs should not be compared to the situation at Savoy Elementary.

In mid-January, Savoy's principal had described "single isolated incidents” and denied a bed bug infestation, before that school was shut down and students relocated in early February.

The full letter sent home to Miner parents is below:

Dear Miner Elementary School Community,
Here at Miner Elementary School, it is my priority to ensure that all students and staff are safe and the school environment is conducive to teaching and learning. To keep you informed on how we are doing this on an ongoing basis, I want to share an update regarding routine maintenance and cleaning at our school.
Throughout the year, DC Public Schools (DCPS) proactively works with the Department of General Services (DGS) to prevent and treat any potential threat of pests (rodents, bugs, etc.) at all schools. DCPS and DGS work with school staff to identify the location of potential pests, complete a thorough inspection for entry points, fix any structural issues which may be a contributing factor, and bring in pest control services, including exterminators, if necessary. On a daily basis, the school custodian team is also committed to ensuring the building is thoroughly cleaned and free of unwanted waste that may attract pests.
We follow strict protocols when any pest is identified here. First, we immediately confirm the details of the sighting. For example: what was seen, when it was seen, and in what area of the school. Then, our custodial foreman will evaluate the area and complete necessary cleaning and maintenance. If necessary, we will schedule pest control services to treat any particular area or location. Finally, if multiple exterminations are required, a broader communication to families via letter, email, and ConnectEd/Robo is disseminated.
If the pest identified is a bed bug or lice, or another insect, it is the school nurse's role to identify, notify, and educate affected students, parents, and staff on next steps and available resources. Please note, students are not excluded from school for bed bugs or lice.
As we continue to monitor the school with our agency partners, and conduct routine maintenance and cleaning, the entire school community plays a role in keeping our school building clean and safe. From properly disposing of all trash and unwanted food to keeping food limited to designated eating areas, we can together reduce the likelihood of unwanted pests. We want to thank you for keeping our school building clean and safe for all.
Please reach out to me directly if you have any questions or if you’d like to report an issue in the school building or any concerns regarding your child’s well-being.
Andrea Mial
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