Roach causes school cafeteria to shut down, district says

Food to be prepared off site until Crystal Springs Elementary School cleaned

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A single roach led the Duval County school district to shut down operations Monday in the cafeteria of Crystal Springs Elementary School, News4Jax has learned.

Principal LaShawn Russ-Porterfield sent an automated phone message to parents and guardians Tuesday informing them that “pests” had been found in students’ food.

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

Several parents told News4Jax on Wednesday 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.”

The school said that 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. School officials said the food is being prepared at the Duval County Public Schools nutrition services center.

Even so, Johanna Medero said her daughter won’t be eating school lunch any time soon.

“I’m going to go get her some lunch and bring it back to school,” Medero said Wednesday.

She and parent Tiffany Raines said they didn't receive an automated call or letter about the incident.

“It never was a call to my husband, to myself. I checked the voicemail at home,” Raines said. “I asked him, I said, 'Go through your phone and make sure they didn’t call,' because I didn’t know about it until he pulled it up on News4Jax.”

The district said that if a parent didn’t get an automated phone call, it could be because the school doesn't have updated contact information. It’s the parent or guardian’s responsibility to make sure the school always has his or her most recent phone number if they wish to receive the automated phone calls, officials said.

Parents can also opt out of the automated calls, which don't involve only serious matters. They can also be about upcoming school events and reminders, and because of that, the district said, many parents opt out of the alerts. They said this could serve as a reminder that if a parent opts out of alerts, he or she won't get any alerts, including those for more serious incidents.

As for the letter, the district said it was sent home with the children, so if parents didn’t receive one, it likely wasn’t given to them by the student.

A woman identified only as 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."

Her questions were answered when she heard the 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. 

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

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