Education

High school rat problem spurs teacher to take video – then take students elsewhere

Watch the scurrying rat that startled substitute teacher at John F. Kennedy High

Substitute teacher Veronica Luther, 25, said she was startled when a rat lurking in her empty math classroom at John F. Kennedy High School in Sacramento came at her on a dead run Monday, April 17, 2017. Here's the rodent sitting on a seat in the
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Substitute teacher Veronica Luther, 25, said she was startled when a rat lurking in her empty math classroom at John F. Kennedy High School in Sacramento came at her on a dead run Monday, April 17, 2017. Here's the rodent sitting on a seat in the

Substitute teacher Veronica Luther said she was startled when a rat lurking in an empty classroom at John F. Kennedy High School in Sacramento came at her at a dead run Monday.

Before the end of the day, Luther, 25, moved her math classes into the library and asked administrative staff to eradicate the rat and thoroughly sanitize Classroom 306. By day’s end, she said, she was asked not to come back to the school for her second day of substitute teaching.

Monday’s rat was not the first to scamper along the halls and walls at Kennedy in Sacramento’s Pocket-Greenhaven neighborhood.

Sacramento City Unified School District spokeswoman Maria Lopez said rats have been a serious problem this year because of heavy rains and school’s proximity to the Sacramento River. She said district facilities staff trapped the math class rat overnight and twice “sanitized the classroom.”

“The rats this year, because of the flooding, don’t have their homes anymore because of the high water,” Lopez said. “They’ve been looking for shelter.”

Luther said when she talked to an administrator about sanitizing the room so she could return with students, she found resistance.

“They did not agree to sanitize,” Luther said. She said the rat ran all through the room, first when she arrived at 7:50 a.m. for the start of school and again when she returned during her preparation period.

As soon as she saw the rodent before the first school bell, she alerted administrators, she said. “They had me take a classroom of students in there directly after I told them about the rat,” Luther said. “They weren’t concerned at all.”

During Luther’s two rat sightings, the animal was on student desks, workbooks, tabletops and the teacher’s desk.

She said that after she pressed the case for sanitizing before she and students would return, an administrator called her back and said she would not be needed for a second day of teaching. On Tuesday, Luther was teaching math at McClatchy High School instead.

Asked to explain, Lopez said the substitute teacher “insisted that she be given guarantees that the problem be permanently resolved and that the curriculum and materials would be thrown out, including student workbooks,” Lopez said. “The administrator who spoke to her said they could not make those guarantees.”

Lopez said district facilities workers “have been going out once or twice a month” on rat calls.

She said the facilities team put traps around the 44-acre school and monitor them regularly.

Luther said if the problem is that serious, she believes the district should have a rigorous protocol for eradication. “If not, that seems lax,” she said.

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