School in Sterling Working to Combat Tick, Gypsy Moth Exposure

The playsets at the Sterling Community School have been blocked off after students are reportedly being bitten by ticks at recess and gypsy moths are covering the playgrounds.

The school’s nurse, Faith Coderre, said she’s pulled ticks off of children. Parents have been raising their concerns. 

“My daughter had a little boy in her class with a tick crawling across his face and she was just skeeved out from then on,” Sterling Community School parent, Jessica Connetti, said.

“The teachers would check them when they came back into the classrooms and if they had a tick that had bitten them and was embedded, they were sent to the nurse,” said Sarah Veader, who also has a student at the school.

School staff is taking some steps to combat the issue. Superintendent Brenda Needham said they’ve blocked off the playsets if there are a lot of gypsy moths present and kept the grass short to not attract ticks.

For students who have been bitten by a tick at recess, the school nurse removes it and lets a parent know immediately, Needham said. Staff has also been posting literature on the principal’s blog on the schoo's website and sending information to parents about protecting their students from ticks and gypsy moth exposure.

“They should be concerned. Just as they’re playing in their backyard, it’s no different than the school,” Needham said.

The problem has been worse than usual over the last two years, the superintendent added.

The school has used Dawn dish soap and water as a safe way to clean the playsets or doorways touched by the gypsy moth caterpillars – which are known to cause skin irritation – adding it’s trickier when it comes to treating for ticks because there are strict state regulations in place, Needham said. 

There are the options of using minimum risk pesticides or pesticides exempt from federal registration to treat for ticks at schools with students between kindergarten and eighth grade, according to Diane Jorsey, acting supervisor of the Pesticide Management Program for the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP).

If using pesticides is ineffective and there are still ticks spotted on the school’s property, the superintendent or local health director could determine there is an immediate threat to human health in order to authorize treatment that includes conventional pesticides, Jorsey said.

Needham said she will be calling DEEP for more information.

Some parents said they wouldn’t mind the more extreme treatment options.

“If it would actually get rid of (the ticks) and allow the children to use the whole playground area for their activities, that’s what I would prefer,” according to Veader.

Sterling Community School, in conjunction with the Northeast District Department of Health, is hosting a community meeting Tuesday, May 23 in the school’s cafeteria to talk about preventing tick-borne disease, mosquito-borne illnesses and discomforts related to gypsy moth exposure.

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