School officials: Pests found in students' food at Florida school

Food to be prepared off-site until area is cleaned, administrators say

By Francesca Amiker - Reporter, Bakari Savage - Reporter, anchor, Melanie Lawson - The Morning Show anchor, News4Jax.com Staff

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Parents were notified after pests were found in students' food at Crystal Springs Elementary School on Monday, according to Duval County Public Schools.

Principal LaShawn Russ-Porterfield sent an automated phone message to parents and guardians Tuesday informing them of the incidents, "regarding pests that were found in students’ food."

School officials said the school's cafeteria and kitchen area will be thoroughly cleaned.

Several parents Wednesday told News4Jax that they did not get any notification from the school about the pests.

“He’s been here since kindergarten. He’s in third grade, and we’ve never had any kind of issue," parent Heather Sykes said. "We’ve gotten phone calls every year. And, now, this is kind of disappointing, because, I mean, it’s been a good school for him, for all these years, and I would like to know -- I just need more information.” 

But the school said in addition to the automated call, letters were sent home, explaining what was happening.

READ: Letter sent to Crystal Springs parents

The letter and the call both said that the school district and its food service contractor, Chartwells, made the decision to prepare all food off-site until the area is cleaned.

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Debbie, whose 7-year-old granddaughter eats lunch at the school, told News4Jax that she witnessed a sight Tuesday afternoon that made her question what was going on behind the school building off Hammond Boulevard.

"I got there about 1:40 and they were hauling all this stuff out of the cafeteria. I'm talking about coolers like you see for breakfast and such as that," she said. "They were hauling it all out and dumping it into the dumpsters."

The grandmother's questions were answered when she heard the concerning voicemail from the principal.

"DCPS came out and said that there was critters," Debbie said. "I guess in the kitchen."

Debbie called the school's discovery scary and disgusting. She and others now plan to pack lunches for their students until the issue, and any pests, are gone. 

It's unclear where the pests originated or whether they have been an ongoing problem.

School officials have not specified how long the cafeteria will be closed for deep cleaning. 

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