School officials say the number of bed bugs in city classrooms are on the rise despite efforts to contain them. NY1's Lindsey Christ filed the following report
Last week, PS 163 had bed bugs, again. Several times in the past year, the school has found the pesky critters on students, faculty and in classrooms. A growing number of city schools are dealing with the bugs. Parents, teachers and students say it's a nuisance, a distraction and a worry.
"I just hope they combat it because it really interrupts the children’s learning and it interrupts our teaching and it interrupts everyone's lives," said PS 163 teacher Patricia Cardenas.
The Department of Education says bed bugs come into schools on clothing, bags or backpacks. Although the department couldn't give any data on the number of incidents, officials say the problem has gotten worse.
The DOE won't send exterminators to a school until a dead bed bug is mailed to a lab. But adults at PS 163 say the key is to think ahead.
"We had a plan in place right away, so we are further ahead I think than a lot of schools but it isn't good for anybody," said PS 163 PTA Co-president Carrie Reynolds
A few blocks south from PS 163, at the American Museum of Natural History, bed bugs feed by biting entomologist Lou Sorkin's hands. The bites don't spread disease, but in three quarters of people they cause an itchy rash. Sorkin says the problem has gotten worse across the city and schools need to take action.
"They should be proactive. Maybe give the students large ziplocked bags in which they can place their clothing and book bags. And if children have infestations, they should be told about it and then their parents can do something about it," Sorkin said.
The DOE doesn't provide sealed plastic bags, but the PTA and teachers at PS 163 say they have bought enough for everyone. Now three times a day, students and teachers seal up their belongings. The bags weren't cheap and the procedure is time consuming but the alternative is worse.
Parents and educators say they are very concerned about the bugs being carried from the schools into homes, forcing families to hire expensive exterminators and even throw out some furniture.
The DOE says it can't completely solve the problem since every time it clears a school, a brand new bug can ride someone's coattail right back in.