EWING >> Pupils are not the only living things attending class at STEMCivics charter school in Ewing.
One parent is horrified that bedbugs have repeatedly crept their way into classrooms in recent years.
“The school should be shut down,” the parent said of the learning center located at the Incarnation — St. James campus in Ewing. “It’s a public health hazard.” The parent, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of retribution, shared five emails from STEMCivics Charter School founder Dr. Leigh Byron informing parents of bedbugs being found in classrooms dating back to Nov. 18, 2016. The most recent two sightings occurred on April 10 and March 28.
“The bedbugs come in from the outside and they come in with students,” Byron said Wednesday in a phone interview. “The students go to the nurse. The students are checked out. We help the parents privately and we go forward. It’s not a building facility issue.”
STEMCivics moved to Incarnation’s campus at 1555 Pennington Rd. in July 2015.
Once a bedbug is reported, the school activates a pest control plan, Byron said.
“We have an exterminator who comes to the school within hours and inspects the schools,” Byron said. “The room is quarantined for the day.”
Byron said the school will help parents with infestations at home by providing advice and information, and connecting them with organization and agencies that can help.
The school leader said he has heard concerns from staff, parents and students about the bedbugs problem.
“We are concerned about everybody’s well-being and we take every step to help the families whose children have brought them into school rid their homes of the bedbugs,” Byron said. “People are concerned when they hear (of a bedbug being found) but we give them the information, we help them and we are proactive.”
If bedbugs are brought back from the school to a home, it could be a costly problem.
It can cost thousands of dollars to remediate an infestation.
“Something needs to be done,” the parent said. “Once you bring home this, it’s a problem.”
Byron said the parent who is concerned has a “choice.”
“That parent who contacted you or any parent who contacted you and feels that we are not doing everything we can to ensure the safety of everybody does not have to be at our school,” the founder said. “We love our kids and we’d miss them but parents have the choice.”
Bedbugs have been a prominent problem in the Trenton region. Infestations have occurred at state office buildings and public agencies.
A Trentonian story in October 2016 about the Mercer County Board of Social Services using Bounce dryer sheets to combat the critters garnered national attention.
As for STEMCivics, the school will increase enrollment by 650 students between the next school year and 2023.
The charter school will open two middle schools in Trenton at 720 Bellevue Ave. and 301 N. Chancery Place next school year, with 225 students attending each middle school. STEMCivics was also authorized to increase its enrollment from 400 students to 600 students in the high school over a four-year period.