School officials looking at options for Strong School bee issue

August 29, 2014

By Lindsay Carey
Staff Writer
A concerned parent recently addressed the Board of Education bringing a bee infestation in the field of Strong School to their attention and seeking some action to remedy the problem.
Ulla Plourde, a parent of a Strong School student, questioned why the board had not taken any action to eliminate the bees for the safety of the students.
“Among our students are many that suffer from bee allergies and some of which can be life threatening,” said Plourde. “A child suffering from these bee sting allergies cannot enjoy recess or any form of outdoor play with the same level of confidence that another child can.”
She also pointed out that if a child with this allergy is stung, the responsibility will fall on the school district and Board of Education, which will likely lead to a lawsuit.
Besides the issue of safety for children with bee allergies, Plourde also felt it was unfairly diminishing children’s rights to “equal play.”
This year, Plourde said, the students of Strong School were limited to playing on the black top on field day, because of the insects. Plourde said she thought it was unfair for the children of Strong School to be at the only school in the district that is unable to use its field.
The bees that are nesting at Strong School are known as digger bees, because they create their nests in soil.
Plourde suggested several options to the board about how to get rid of the bees based on suggestions from the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP).
She recommended flooding the fields and flushing out the nests, incorporating mulch or water to make the field unfavorable for nesting, or spraying the fields with pesticides.
“There is no do nothing option,” said Plourde. “I have heard from a reputable pest control company that these digger bees will most likely return in the spring.”
Plourde criticized the board for not acting on the matter after being informed, however, it became apparent that there was a lack of communication to parents.
As interim supt. when the problem arose in June, Karen Smith said that she went to the school and immediately began seeking information on the best way to eliminate the bees.
Both Smith and the new Supt. Timothy Connellan said there hasn’t been enough communication on their behalf to parents regarding how they are planning to fix this.
Connellan said he and Pete Romano, director of operations for the schools, just recently sat down with the town’s health director to discuss the digger bee problem.
“We’re continuing to look at this scenario and what all the options are,” said Conellan. “We know that this is a spring problem, it does not appear that there is an imminent danger for right this moment for children returning Aug. 28.”
Connellan said he will send a letter to parents in the near future to let them know that the bee situation is being monitored and plans are being made to correct it for next spring.

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