When students, faculty, and staff leave school to go home each afternoon, another population emerges, finding food and shelter in the halls of SHS. Without generating the shrieks of squeamish individuals, the rodents of SHS can wander freely through the building after hours. “The rodents are like cockroaches. They come out when nobody’s around,” explained custodian Eddie Richardson, who cleans the kitchen each night. “Sometimes, they get a little bold at night, and I see them running around out there.” These unwelcome creatures leave behind traces. Mouse droppings, a delicate way of referring to feces, are not uncommon at SHS. “They leave their droppingson my desk,” said science teacher Elise Levine, adding, “[this] completely flips me out.” Coming back to school after summer break, world language teacher Mary Liz Mace noticed the same thing. “I could see some of my papers in the fi le cabinet had mice droppings on them,” she said. Students too have reported finding evidence that a rodent population lives at SHS. “I saw mouse droppings in the band room,” said Steven Lewis ’14.
Mice In The Classroom
At SHS, the term “mouse droppings” also has another, more literal meaning. Jason Noble, Director of Bands, was caught off guard when he was, “sitting at [his] desk writing music and eating almonds, and I heard this ch, ch, ch noise, and suddenly, from the ceiling, dropped a giant mouse onto my desk, knocked over all of my papers, and scurried off the desk.” Co-principal Fred Goldberg commented that, “if you’re not in that classroom, it might seem amusing, but if you were in the room at that moment, it probably wouldn’t have been that funny.”
While the rodent population does not, for the most part, share the halls of SHS with the human community, there are areas of the school where mice are regularly spotted during the day. “We get mice down in the locker room quite often,” said physical education teacher Devin Hoover, who claims that he “just kind of exist[s] with them. I’ve got two [mice] down there that I’m friendly with; we share carrots.” Hoover’s students, however, have witnessed a different kind of reaction on the partof their teacher. “There was a mouse in the gym, [and] Hoover threw a clipboard at it,” said Ben Ulene ’14. Hoover explained that the mouse startled him.As a result, “I freaked a little… I overreacted,” he said. Physical education teachers Nicole Roemer and Jennifer Roane have developed a routine each morning before entering their offi ce. “First, we check around to make sure there are no mice… I also keep Lysol wipes in my offi ce. So every morning, I… wipe down my desk just in case anything’s visited overnight,” commented Roemer.
On occasion, mice have also appeared in classrooms during the school day. Solange Azor ’14 saw a mouse in Rika Konishi’s biology class last year. “It was a tiny, little white thing. It was kind of cute. Ms. Konishi was adorable. She just [said], guys, guys, stay calm,’ and then she evacuated the classroom,” recalled Azor. In some cases, instead of evacuating the classroom, students have attempted to evacuate the mouse. Orchestra director Amédée Williams reported that when a mouse ran through his orchestra class, “the students were chasing it with their bows.”
Mice are not the only rodents in SHS. According to Goldberg, teachers have also reported seeing rats. “The rats were huge, and the mice were quick… and healthy!” Williams observed. Mace too described having seen a rat at SHS. “I’m not familiar with rats, but I knew it wasn’t a mouse because it was bigger, and it had little red eyes on it,” she explained.
How They Got Here
Natural conditions at SHS create an environment that is favorable to rodents. “You have to consider where we’re living,” noted Levine. “We’re living in a flood zone [and] we have a brook outside, which is really a drainage ditch.” The crawl spaces beneath SHS are “very moist and conducive to rodent populations,” said John Trenholm, director of Facilities and Plant for Scarsdale Public Schools. “[The mice] absolutely love it.”
The winter weather also encourages mice to enter the school. “They’re just like us. It’s cold; they’re coming inside,” stated Richardson. This is not difficult for small creatures. “[Rodents] can get into the walls and near the pipes fairly easily,” said Goldberg. Many believe that people exacerbate the problem by taking food out of the cafeteria. “Students and a lot of people eat in the hallways and… leave [their food] in the classrooms,” said custodian Saliano Otaloa. The presence of food throughout the school gives rodents plenty of reason to roam. If food were less available, the school would be less inviting to rodents. However, containing the problem is difficult to accomplish because, according to lunch aide Charles Davis, “there’s a lot of time…between” when the students make the mess and when it gets cleaned up. Moreover, as Goldberg said, “mice don’t need a whole sandwich.” Crumbs are encouragement enough.
While some people take responsibility for their trash, others do not. “The teachers are good about cleaning up after ourselves,” asserted Levine.“It’s students that are carrying food and stuff around the building.” Richardson agreed that the teachers’ lounge is clean. “I haven’t seen any feces up there at all,” he said. The problem, according to Davis, is that students often leave a mess “unless someone is there to say to them, ‘Clean it up before you leave.’” Even then, he pointed out, some kids will “get up and walk away,” claiming that the food is not theirs. Lunch aide Myles McDowell is particularly critical of seniors. They “really, really disappoint… me,” he said, adding, “you would think that they would set an example for the rest of the classes to do their part too, but they don’t. They’re the worst ones.” In response, Spencer Serling ’12 commented, “I think it’s wrong for the lunch aides to pin it on the seniors because…all grades share [the responsibility] equally.” Many assert that a solution to the rodent problem involves a conscious change in student behavior. “It would be nice if people didn’t leave garbage in the hallways or stairwells or if students religiously cleaned up after themselves before they left the cafeteria,” admitted Goldberg, noting that students are also asked not to bring food into classrooms or teachers’ offices. Mcdowell, too, believes that students must take on more responsibility. “Y’all got to do your part. There are no maids here. There’s no extra help here,” he said. He explained that aides are not responsible for cleaning the school, although many students seem to think otherwise. “We are [here] to monitor. That’s all, plain and simple.” Some believe the school administration should do more. “ I think the school should try to better enforce its policies on eating in class,” said Danielle Nista ’12. Mace also believes the administration should “keep emphasizing that we shouldn’t be eating anywhere except the cafeteria and the commons.” In the absence of a concerted effort on the part of the student body to alter its behavior, the administration can only continue to carry out what is referred to as its Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program. When the school has pest problems “there’s baiting and trapping done…[but] we’re not allowed to use poison,” explained Trenholm. This course of action, however, only responds to the problem; it does not prevent it. Therefore, as Mcdowell urged, “students will have to all chip in.” □