Health Violations Cited in Palm Beach County School Inspections
Palm Beach County public and private schools are frequently cited by health inspectors for a variety of violations, which run from rodent droppings in classrooms and broken drinking fountains and toilets, to locked bathrooms used as storage closets, according to reports.
Since 2009, schools have racked up 128 violations for vermin problems and 479 citations for faulty fountains, among other repeated offenses, records show.
But despite these unsanitary conditions, schools rarely are fined or receive unsatisfactory ratings, because the violations usually are not considered dangerous for students and teachers. And most importantly, education typically continues despite the nuisances.
A review of inspection reports show what some students face during the school day:
Rat waste in two rooms in a classroom building at Royal Palm Beach High School: "School buildings must be rat proofed," an inspector wrote in the school's satisfactory June report. "Note: Staff suspects a rodent nest above ceiling tiles." Pest control is a never-ending concern, he added, with cases flaring up at about one out of every 10 campuses, records show.
A public outcry last year about an abundance of rodents and roaches at three aging elementary schools in the Glades helped to persuade the Palm Beach County School Board to approve three major school renovation projects. In 2007, the district spent more than $150,000 on rat-proofing building repairs at Loxahatchee Groves Elementary School. The campus became susceptible to vermin because of hurricane damage in 2004 and a later air conditioner replacement that exposed holes in ceilings.
School rodent problems rarely get so bad they disrupt classes, but in December eight kindergarten classes at Tamarac Elementary in Broward County were relocated to other rooms. To attack the infestation, the school trimmed nearby trees and set traps.
One of the worst local problems in recent years occurred at St. Juliana Catholic School in West Palm Beach. In 2007, a barrage of rats and mice forced the school to close for three days while a pest-control company exterminated the property. It was reopened after the Health Department conducted an inspection with school officials.
Routine inspections usually take one to two hours and cover eight major categories, including school sanitation, bathrooms, trash and vermin control. Even something as minor as a broken paper towel holder is checked off.
"Anything that might cause harm, a broken window, that's something they would deal with right away," said Wilson, the county inspector. "We take everything seriously."
Source = Associated Press
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