AP NEWS

Board of Health Gets Earful on Heat, Mice Woes in Lowell Schools

April 4, 2019

LOWELL -- Whether it’s a lack of heat or mice infestations, the problems are still present inside Lowell classrooms, educators say.

City officials are taking note of the problems and say they are working as fast as they can to correct the issues.

During Wednesday night’s Board of Health meeting at City Hall, teachers from around the district went over details of the tumultuous teaching conditions they say they have experienced, including Pina Maggio, of Robinson Middle School.

She recalls times when low temperatures would force students to sit at their desks wearing jackets, hats and gloves.

“That temperature in that classroom that prevents my children from being comfortable, prevents them from learning,” Maggio said. “It is a disaster to the education of our children and that’s the point I want to make. We have a problem, not just in Robinson but every building has a problem, and the impact on the education” is serious.

“Our children deserve more,” she concluded, to the applause of meeting attendees. “I live in Chelmsford, my children went to a comfortable school and got a wonderful education. The children of Lowell deserve nothing less and they’re not getting it.”

Karen Walton, a teacher Shaughnessy Elementary School, told members of the Board of Health she was not attending Wednesday night’s Board of Health meeting for the heat issue at her school.

“I’m here for the mice,” Walton said.

The first-grade teacher said she caught 10 mice inside her classroom on Monday. Walton added she regularly sweeps mouse droppings off her desk and the desks of her students before they come in for the day.

“We’re really sick of it,” Walton said. “As much as they say, ‘They’re working on it, the pest control has it under control,’ I’m still catching mice.”

Laura Lamarre Anderson, a teacher at STEM Academy, said teachers are forced to throw away supplies due to the presence of mice. She added students and teachers experience allergic reactions and develop allergies thought to be due to the presence of mice.

“It’s not just Shaughnessy, it’s not just the couple schools you’ve mentioned,” Anderson said. “Every teacher I’ve talked to have had rodent problems. I work in a school I would not send my children to, and that’s sad.”

Jo-Ann Keegan, chair of the Board of Health, said the health inspector and Banner Pest Control -- contracted to address the rodent problem within the district -- regularly visit the school to address the problems.

She added she is receiving photos of mice, alive and dead, from those inside the school.

“Each month it might be a different school, but we certainly haven’t solved the problem,” Keegan said.

Kara Keefe Mullin, from the Office of the City Manager, as well as members of the Department of Public Works, were on hand for Wednesday night’s meeting. Mullin stressed the city and the district have been working diligently to address the issues.

“We are not dismissing anything,” she said.

Throughout Wednesday night’s meeting, the Board of Health took notes of the problems raised and where the problems were happening.

Mullin pointed out these were issues that would take time to correct.

Follow Aaron Curtis on Twitter @aselahcurtis