LA JUNTA- The playground at La Junta Intermediate school was quiet Thursday during what would normally be a busy lunch recess. Classes were canceled for a second day after staff found bed bugs in the building on Tuesday.
“We decided it would be best to get to make sure that we could get the building cleaned out and do what we need to do,” explained Superintendent Rick Lovato.
Bed bugs are not known to spread disease. Rick Ritter, executive director of the Otero County health department, said the school was under no obligation to cancel class. Lovato did so out of an abundance of caution.
The building was searched Tuesday and the location of the bugs was narrowed to three specific rooms. Lovato is confident the school will be clean and safe by Monday so that the kids can take their annual state assessments.
Some parents aren’t so sure.
“I’m sending my kids back to school on Monday and they have their big testing, but if they don’t have the problem under control, that worries me because it’s very expensive to get rid of bed bugs,” said Karan Myers.
She told us her daughter noticed several students visiting the school nurse last week with rashes and believes the problem could be bigger than what officials describing.
“The research that I’ve done by myself is, if you have bed bugs for quite a while, that’s how they get into say your backpack or clothing and that’s how they get in school. So, it has to be some kind of a big issue,” Myers said.
Ritter pointed out there are many causes for rashes and he wouldn’t necessarily attribute it bed bugs. He shared these slides from a presentation by the Environmental Protection Agency about the best practices for addressing bed bugs issues at school.
Some key takeaways: bed bugs don’t fly or jump. They do travel by hiding on clothing or in backpacks. Bed bugs and their eggs are visible to the naked eye. So, Ritter encouraged parents to check their children thoroughly before sending them to school and when they come home again to prevent a spread.
“It’s not a fun situation,” said Lovato. “Quite frankly, it’s embarrassing to people, but it happens. It’s just the kind of thing that you deal with and you move forward.”