Hartwell Elementary Slated to Re-open Monday

By MJ Kneiser, WLHR Radio, Hartwell

Hartwell Elementary School is closed today because of a problem with bats.

According to school officials, the bats are nesting in a corner crawl space at one end of the school building.

Hart County Assistant School Superintendent Kathy Leard said school officials met Tuesday night with concerned parents of Hartwell Elementary School students to re-assure them and explain the removal process.

“We had a meeting Tuesday night and talked to many concerned parents and that went well,” Leard said Wednesday afternoon. “But then we concluded that in order for our exclusion of bats to continue and to expedite that process and do any cleaning that needs to be done, it would be better if students and staff were out of the way, so school will be closed Thursday and Friday.”

Leard said the school is working with the Hart County Health Department’s Environmental Health Division, who recommended a bat removal service.

She said a team of wildlife removal experts from TruTech in Greenville, South Carolina are at the school and will be working to remove the bats, but she said it needs to be done while the children are out of the building.

“Right now, the students are hindering the removal team from doing what they need to do,” Leard said.

This time, Leard said the wildlife removal company is working to make sure the bats are gone for good by putting up screens and filling in all areas where the bats have been getting in.

“The area of concern is one area at the end of one of the buildings,” she said. “They will take care of that area and fill all other possible areas where the bats can get in.  The representative from TruTech reassured the parents Tuesday night that at no time where their students in any danger.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, a bat infestation can be a health hazard.

Not only do bats carry the rabies virus, but their excrement can cause a lung disease called histoplasmosis.

However, District Two Public Health spokesman Dave Palmer said students at Hartwell Elementary were in little danger of contracting any sort of illness from the bat infestation.

“Most of the time, when it’s in a building, unless it’s been there for a long time where the fungus can actually grow from the bat guano, it’s not as much of a threat,” Palmer said. “So at this time, we don’t think it’s a threat and it’s being taken care of pretty promptly.”

Hart County School Superintendent Jerry Bell said this is not the first time bats have infested the Hartwell Elementary School building, adding that he has had to remove bats there on three other occasions.