Exterminators were to cleanse Booker T. Washington High School on Wednesday after a handful of bedbugs were found there.
In a video posted to the Tulsa Public Schools YouTube channel Tuesday, Superintendent Deborah Gist said five bedbugs had been collected from inside the school and identified since last week. Although about nine insects were examined overall, the others were found to be fruit flies or other small pests.
The YouTube video was posted in response to rumors and false information surrounding a bedbug infestation at the high school, Gist said. One image sent to the superintendent purportedly showed a bedbug found at the school, but the picture was taken from Google.
“There is not an infestation of bed bugs at Booker T. Washington,” Gist said. “Quite the contrary, there are only a handful that have even been determined to have been found. And on top of that, we also are treating and doing everything that we need to do above and beyond to make sure that we’re preventing any situation that may come.”
An exterminator crew treated 24 rooms at the school between Oct. 1 and Monday as a preventative measure, she said.
The crew began treating the entire building Wednesday evening. This includes classrooms, lockers, fabric chairs as well as any other furniture conducive to harboring bedbugs, cracks, crevices and all heat sources.
Students were required to clean out their lockers in preparation for the cleansing.
The district’s original plan was to treat part of the school Wednesday and the rest Thursday, but officials decided to do it all at once due to the level of concern in the community.
“Again, this is actually not necessary,” Gist said in the video. “We are treating the full school out of an extra super abundance of caution just to be sure we have addressed the issue and alleviated the anxiety that people are feeling about this.”
The treatment process included a recommended dissipation period of two to four hours to ensure the building is safe for people with asthma. Because the school was being treated in the evening, Gist said students would return to class Thursday well after the dissipation period has ended.
A letter sent to parents on Tuesday states the district will continue to observe the building with monitoring stations in the school an in-person inspections by the exterminator and facilities team. Students are encouraged to continue reporting possible bedbug sightings to their teacher or other adults.