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Gnat infestation causes Lincoln Elementary portable to close for start of school year

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2013 12:33 a.m. CDT

GLEN ELLYN – While Lincoln Elementary School families were busy with back-to-school preparations last week, Glen Ellyn School District 41 staff were occupied with ridding one of the school's portables of a gnat infestation that appeared about a week before classes were scheduled to begin.

Superintendent Paul Gordon said he was informed about the insects in the portable on Aug. 18. The district brought in exterminators, who set down traps and identified the insects as gnats, although staff at first suspected that they were fleas.

The portable was treated for the bugs and continues to be closely monitored with daily checks to ensure the gnats are gone before students and staff will be allowed to use the space, Gordon said.

"We're going to be doing this on a daily basis, ensuring that we have a safe facility for students and staff," Gordon said.

The structure, which was previously used before the district purchased it, has been identified as one of the portables most in need of replacement, Assistant Superintendent of Finance, Facilities and Operations Bob Ciserella said.

The classes originally set to meet in the portable's two classrooms are instead being held inside the Lincoln building. Once the district determines it is safe to return classes to the portable, those classrooms will be used as STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Math) labs.

The building space being used by the displaced classes was originally designated by the school as STEAM lab space, but now will continue as traditional classroom space.

Board members expressed concern about the use of chemicals to kill the insects and the possibility of carrying any bugs on materials that were taken out of the classrooms.

Ciserella said the chemicals should not pose health risks since the district is allowing for adequate time to pass before students and teachers are allowed to re-enter the portable classrooms.

School officials said the majority of items that left the classrooms were wiped down, with the exception of some reading materials. The affected teachers have not reported any additional bug sightings in their new classrooms.

For now, it's unclear when the previously infested classrooms will return to normal use, but Gordon said he believes parents will be given the opportunity to visit the portable before their children begin using it for class.

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