Rodent problem at Garrett Academy stems back years

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The state’s Department of Health and Environmental Control found signs of rodents at Garrett Academy, but DHEC reports show this is not the first-time rodent activity has been spotted in one of the school’s food area.

In Tuesday’s inspection, DHEC’s report noted inspectors “observed evidence of rodent activity in the dry storage room.”

Charleston County School District spokesperson Erica Taylor said the rodent activity was observed in the culinary arts area, not the cafeteria, and, as such, did not affect the cafeteria’s score.

The inspector also ordered the problem in the culinary arts area be corrected within 10 days or warned that the facility could face a downgraded score.

Tuesday’s report was 94 percent.

In April of 2017, DHEC gave the food establishment area at Garrett Academy an 87 percent.

In the 2017 inspection, the DHEC report noted that inspectors “observed rodent dropping on glassware near dish pit area.”

In the same inspection, inspectors noted “observed rodent dropping throughout kitchen area: Greater amount of dropping located near hot water sanitizing dish machine. Rodent droppings observed underneath shelving racks for dish ware and underneath dish machine. Small droppings also observed on top of glassware on holding rack.”

It was also noted in that report that the manager stated she would use plastic plates and utensils.

The district spent $330,000 in 2017 on repairs to the school, but Charleston County School Board Member Kevin Hollinshead said the rodent problem still exists.

“As one teacher said,'The rodent problem at Garrett is nothing new,'” Hollinshead said. “But as a board member, I can’t stand by and let that continue on.”

Hollinshead alerted the district in September about the rodent issue by email.

The district’s operating officer responded and said he agreed rodents can lead to an unhealthy environment.

Nearly three weeks later is when the district asked DHEC to perform an inspection.

The district said in a statement, “Charleston County School District is aware of the rodent issue at Garrett Academy and has been taking aggressive steps with pest management and control vendors to mitigate the problem.”

A teacher at Garrett Academy told Live 5 News on Friday that there is a bad rat problem at Garrett Academy.

She said rats destroyed a supply closet full of lab equipment, as well as books and supplies repeatedly eaten by the pests.

The teacher said she has even had a rodent run through her classroom in the middle of a lesson.

“It’s sad,” Hollinshead said. “We shouldn’t have to be in an environment like that.”

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