Bats drive students out of Cortez Middle school

Cortez Middle School shut down as flying pests take over

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Russell Phillips with Bat Control out of Carbondale, Colo. prepares to put a net over one of the openings where bats are entering the Cortez Middle School. Enlargephoto

Sam Green/Cortez Journal

Russell Phillips with Bat Control out of Carbondale, Colo. prepares to put a net over one of the openings where bats are entering the Cortez Middle School.

Not a pleasant day at school.

“A nasty and creepy experience.” That’s what eighth-grader Anthony Borders called an infestation of bats this week at Cortez Middle School.

After an unsuccessful effort to remove the bats earlier in the week, Montezuma-Cortez School District Re—1 officials sent students home early Thursday afternoon and called in bat control.

The company, appropriately named Bat Control, just happened to be in the area dealing with bats in Telluride and Durango.

School officials also cancelled school on Friday. Students will return on Tuesday the day after Labor Day.

Borders recently moved to Cortez with his family from Minnesota. He said he observed several dead bats every day starting on Monday in the bus lanes, school entrance and the gymnasium.

Re-1 Superintendent Alex Carter said there are “a lot of bats in Colorado” right now for some reason. “It’s a protected species,” he said. “You can’t kill ’em.”

He said that after a bat flew through a hallway and another one came in contact with a student but didn’t bite her, the district decided to cancel school for the rest of the week.

Carter said the situation “wasn’t an emergency, but for safety reasons” it was probably best to send the students home.

“We think they came in above the industrial arts room next to the gym,” Carter said. Officials believe there are five different bat colonies in the school.

“We’ve had a few bats over the years, but nothing of this magnitude!” CMS Principal Jamie Haukeness said.

Carter believes the bats haven’t been there long because “there’s not a huge amount of gauno.”

The bats will be allowed to leave through openings that they originally entered. Then the openings will be sealed, Carter said.

Bat Control employees will completely seal the building and “place a netting around the building that bat sonar picks up.” This should keep the bats away.

Banishing the bats from the school will cost the school district $24,500 that will come from its Emergency Capital Reserve Fund, which is used for building improvements, Carter said. He added that he was able to negotiate with the company and save the district $4,000 from Bat Control’s asking price.

The service comes with a one-year warranty, he said.

In the meantime, as bats are being booted, the middle school continues to deal with cooling issues.

Math teacher Tommy Thompson said his room on the third floor has been above 80 degrees every morning when he gets there. “Seventh (final) hour is 90-degrees-plus,” he said.

Lisa Baer, a digital language arts teacher, said her fourth-floor room is at least 93 degrees from 1:40 p.m. until the end of the school day.

One positive about the heat is that her volleyball team gets to practice on the school lawn at 7 a.m. “It’s actually kind of fun that we were on the grass” instead of in the gymnasium,” she said.

calebs@cortezjournal.com

AJ Ginnis uses the phone as students line up to call their parents after Cortez Middle School let out early Thursday because of bats in the building. The school remained closed Friday and will reopen Tuesday after Labor Day. Enlargephoto

Sam Green/Cortez Journal

AJ Ginnis uses the phone as students line up to call their parents after Cortez Middle School let out early Thursday because of bats in the building. The school remained closed Friday and will reopen Tuesday after Labor Day.

The Bat Control staff found this dead bat at the Cortez Middle School while blocking off openings where the bats were entering the school. Enlargephoto

Sam Green/Cortez Journal

The Bat Control staff found this dead bat at the Cortez Middle School while blocking off openings where the bats were entering the school.