Congdon Park Elementary Closed for Summer Due to Rat Infestation

Updated: June 14, 2018 11:21 AM

Duluth's Congdon Park Elementary has been closed for the summer due to an infestation of rats in the building's footing and foundation drainage system.

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"Apparently they're coming up through the drainage, so kind of creepy," said Noel Fitzgerald, a Congdon Park Neighborhood resident.

Fitzgerald often takes her grandchildren to the park at the school, so she understands being worried for the students that use it daily.

"I was very surprised. My first concern was, 'well there's rats there, what about the poor kids?' " said Fitzgerald.   

The Duluth School District announced the closure Wednesday, saying that staff and a local pest control firm are working to clear the infestation.  

Duluth Public Schools Manager of Facilities Dave Spooner says the district received a call two weeks ago that the rats were seen near the recycling bins at the school. From there he says the district took action.  

"We found we did have a number of rats. We had more than we ever anticipated that we could have," said Spooner. "I think one morning in the sunlight I counted greater than 75," he said. 

So that's when district officials knew something needed to be done.

"We wanted to do the least impactful method when students were still in school so we started with our box traps," said Spooner. 

But when school got out, it was all hands on deck.

"District leadership concluded that we need to take immediate action to ensure we can eradicate prior to the start of school next fall," said Spooner.

Thursday the plan to eradicate them officially begins.

"We are going to start I believe tomorrow (Thursday) setting up some boxes, which contain food bait, which will eradicate the rats," said Spooner. "From what we've learned and from what we understand the rats will either eat the bait, or they won't eat the bait and they'll probably go into their burrows and that's where they'll die." he said.

The district said pest control workers are currently trapping about five rats per day.

"We're working to remove them from the burrows created in the hillside and beneath the gym addition before they can get into the building itself," said Spooner in a news release.

"Having the building and grounds unoccupied will allow us the flexibility to take steps necessary to make that happen. We appreciate everyone’s support as we work to keep our school grounds healthy," he said.

Both the school building and the grounds, located at 3116 East Superior Street, will be closed for the summer.  Congdon KEY Zone and Excel programs are being moved to Ordean East Middle School.

Spooner said the district is using the least toxic method to remove the rats, which includes pesticide bait boxes set outside the footing and foundation drainage system and near the burrow entrances in the hillside.  The district is posting signs to alert people that the boxes are being used.

Spooner said the planned eradication methods are fully compliant with Minnesota Department of Health and Environmental Protection Agency guidelines.

He also said the cause of the rats at the school is the combination of food, water, and convenient "housing."

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