Flea infestation at ‘appalling proportions’ shuts down two Auckland primary schools for cleaning

OAKLAND, CA (KGO) – Two elementary schools in Oakland will be closed for the rest of the week due to fleas that may have been caused by raccoons in the area, school officials said Wednesday.

“This move follows a major problem that has arisen with fleas on campus,” the Auckland Unified Schools Department said in announcing the closure of Esperanza Primary School and Korematsu Discovery Academy, which are located adjacent to each other in East Auckland.

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We start seeing kids like ‘What?! There were a few little fleas all over the place, and the kids started jumping around saying ‘Oh my God Mrs. Wilson! What is that? What’s that?” Kathryn Wilson, who teaches fifth grade at Esperanza Elementary School, says they pull them apart as they bite and scratch.

She says the flea problem started two weeks ago. Students and teachers were bitten by pests.

“By the time we got home, her face was like bug bites from fleas, and I said, ‘Oh my God, what happened? “

In a statement, the district said exterminators have been working for two weeks to eradicate fleas but the problem has persisted, and closing schools will prevent the spread of fleas throughout the campus.

“In addition, crews will be allowed to perform a deeper cleaning of all classrooms and public areas, including removing all carpets where fleas have settled and laid their eggs,” the statement said.

Wilson is frustrated that the teachers have had to threaten not to come for help. Oakland Unified School District representative John Sasaki says the district is trying to address the problem.

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“Unfortunately, the treatments did not achieve the desired effect, at least as quickly as we would like, so we decided to up our game,” says Sasaki.

Wilson hopes this will not happen again.

“They were covered in fleas from their shoulders to their ankles, more fleas than I’ve ever seen, I’ve never seen anything like that. It was like horrific proportions,” Wilson says.

The district said the schools had a garden on one side and a woodland area on the other and “has seen problems with raccoons”. Experts brought in by the area believe the animals may have led to the flea problem.

Auckland schools welcomed students back to in-person classes in August, after more than a year of distance learning due to the pandemic.

Students will be given short-term study packages during the two-day closure. Each school has about 300 students.

“Exterminators say they do not expect the entire flea problem to be resolved” when classes reopen Monday, the county said, noting that the exterminator may take a month and a half or more to complete but that there should be a marked improvement.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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