MANDEVILLE, La. -- A Northshore school is battling a bat problem.
School leaders at Mandeville Junior High found the intruders in the English wing after hearing a strange noise in the walls when returning from Christmas break.
"We called in some experts and discovered that a bat or more than one bat had entered the building," said St. Tammany Parish Schools spokeswoman Meredith Mendez.
The situation only affects the one building, where there are 16 classrooms. Only three are directly affected.
Since the discovery, the St. Tammany Parish School District has taken several steps to protect the students, including vacating half of the classrooms in the building immediately, as well as try to put the bats out by hiring an outside company, putting in moth balls and opening windows and doors, but it hasn’t been easy.
"The problem is bats are a protected species so we can't go in there with any type of poison,” said Mendez, “We can't kill the bats, we can't injure the bats in any way possible. We have to just try to get them out of the building."
Both the bats and the efforts to get them out have some parents, who didn’t want to be identified, on edge. One mother said, "I haven't been informed about this. I had to take my daughter out yesterday because she had a headache and then she told me the situation."
Bat experts say the critters are common on the Northshore, mainly because of the large number of trees and large number of bugs.
"They do a lot of good things for us,” said J&J Exterminating Entomologist Ryan Weber, “The main thing that you want to try to educate people on is keeping them out of structures."
And once they’re in, the cold keeps them cooped up, so for now, the school can only wait. Parents hope the wait isn’t too much longer.
The district has sealed all of the small spaces suspected to have let the bats get in, and at this point, has mechanisms in place over various vents that will let them out, but not back in.
The school has also made it clear to any teachers remaining in that wing, that if they’re uncomfortable or bothered by the animals or the efforts to get them out, they will be relocated. At least one additional teacher took the principal up on that offer as of Thursday.