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Rat infestation forces Memphis high school to close for several weeks

Shelby County (Tenn.) district will relocate Kirby High School students for the fall semester while workers remove the rodents and clean the campus.

An infestation of rats at Kirby High School in Memphis will keep the building closed the rest of the semester, officials have announced.

Chalkbeat Tennessee reports that it will take six to eight weeks to remove the rodents and clean the school.

Shelby County (Tenn.) School Superintendent Dorsey Hopson says administrators decided to close the building for the whole semester rather than move students back in November or immediately after the work is completed.

The district is looking at several places to relocate Kirby’s 800 students, including an old K-Mart and a mall, about two miles away. Wherever students end up, transportation will be provided.

The rat’s nest was discovered Aug. 24 as school staff cleaned up an old, large storage bin between the school’s greenhouse and the building. That disturbance to the nest caused the rodents to “run inside the school.”

“This is not a scenario where people were not doing their job… This could have happened anywhere,” Hopson says.

The cleanup has cost the district about $70,000 so far and Hopson expects to spend “tens of thousands of dollars” more to close crevices that rats can squeeze through down to “the size of a quarter.”

Hopson had initially considered relocating students to South Side High School. The building previously was occupied by GRAD Academy Memphis, a charter school under the state-run Achievement School District that closed in May. But the school is 15 miles away and the distance could have prevented parents without cars from getting to Kirby if needed.

Hopson plans to present a full list of recommendations to board members Tuesday during a scheduled work session.

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