Watertown parents still concerned over bed bugs at high school

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WATERTOWN — Parents remain dissatisfied with the Watertown City School District’s handling of a potential bed bug incident at the high school that was brought to light Monday. Parents also claim the district was aware of the possible infestation well before parents were notified.

Responding to calls from parents wanting to know if there were bed bugs and if there was cause for concern, the school district on Monday would not confirm whether bed bugs were present in the school. Instead, Superintendent Patricia B. LaBarr sent a notice outlining protocols for handling situations when bed bugs are discovered. Social media posts suggested the insects were in the high school auditorium, where some students eat lunch.

“They wouldn’t answer any questions,” parent Angela M. Bennett said. “I think by their omission alone, that said all that we needed to know. Myself personally, I don’t want to send my son back until I know for sure that it’s been handled fully. It shouldn’t even have gotten to that point if they were actually following their protocols. They’re talking so much online about how they’re following protocols, but are they? Because here we are.”

Mrs. Bennett said her son Ashton, 15, messaged her Monday and told her he and some of his fellow students had been sent to eat their lunch on the gymnasium floor because there were bed bugs in the auditorium, where lunches are split with the cafeteria to maintain social distancing. He told his mother that he thought they were in the auditorium spraying something, which made her think the insects would start scattering to look for places to hide. This prompted Mrs. Bennett to pick her son up and take him home. She was not alone, as many parents reacted to the possible bed bugs Monday by bringing their children home early.

Tuesday morning, another statement was sent out to parents from the superintendent’s office stating that “this situation was about one case at Watertown High School (there is not an infestation), and our protocol was followed.” The protocol included service by pest control Monday night and a deep cleaning by staff. Mrs. LaBarr said the district is monitoring the situation, and if any additional actions are warranted, the school will communicate them accordingly.

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