Brainerd High School is anything but “Snakes on a Plane.”
That’s what Principal Uras Agee said about his campus after Hamilton County Schools system exterminators and outside contractors were called in to remove snakes and rats last week.
“Some of the stories you hear are overexaggerated,” Agee told about two dozen residents at a meeting Tuesday night. “It’s not an infestation. It’s not out of control. It’s not ‘Snakes on a Plane.’ It’s several sightings from some kids, and kids are willing to take it to another level because that’s what kids do.”
Administrators said that an extensive $6.2 million replacement of Brainerd’s heating and air systems “disturbed” the campus’s local environment. Rodents entered the building to find food, then snakes followed to prey on the rodents.
Hamilton County Department of Education specialists say everything has been done to remove the serpents and rodents from the building.
“I don’t think anyone has denied that our building is old, or that there are occasionally rodents in the building,” Agee said. “But all we can do is deal with the issues as they come to us.”
Exterminators were able to trap several snakes and rats using commercial products. With the combination of repellent granules of “Snake-A-Way” and adhesive strips akin to sheet-sized flypaper, snakes were removed from the facility.
Exterminators noted on Monday “to the best of [our] knowledge, there are no signs of snakes in or around the school.”
Whether they return is another issue.
“I can assure you that this building is safe,” said Gary Waters, who oversees facilities for the school district. “I can’t stand here and tell you there will never be another crack in the road, but our exterminators our doing their best.”
The school, built in 1960, has seen a significant weathering process, and the money is there to prove it. $4.3 million of its renovation funding came as a state grant, and the school board says it has stretched the capital budget for two years to make ends meet.
“Age has simply caught up with it,” said Board of Education member JeffreyWilson.
Snakes and rodents were not the only health concerns plaguing Brainerd or its families Monday night. The overhaul process of installing entirely new piping jarred asbestos material from the ceiling, floor and walls. As community members pressed on, those in charge of the “essentially complete” repair assured student safety.
Janitors will clean every room during next week’s fall break, and cleaning crews will visit the school to replace damaged floor tile. Either way, Waters says students are okay to inhabit the school right now. He said “well over half” of the county’s school facilities use asbestos materials, which can only become airborne — and thus hazardous — if disturbed by construction like recent projects.
“I have absolutely every bit of confidence that this school has clean air today, tomorrow and next week,” Waters said. “Hopefully, we’ll come back to a very clean, usable space.”
Contact staff writer Jeff LaFave at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6592.