Teachers: Snake, mouse fell from Henry Clay school ceilings

Henry Clay High School teacher Nathan Spalding said a baby rat snake fell from his classroom ceiling Wednesday and landed on a desk phone.  Spalding said a mouse fell from the ceiling Thursday in another classroom.  Henry Clay is dealing with infestation problems, he said.

Henry Clay High School teacher Nathan Spalding said a baby rat snake fell from his classroom ceiling Wednesday and landed on a desk phone. Spalding said a mouse fell from the ceiling Thursday in another classroom. Henry Clay is dealing with infestation problems, he said.

Provided by Nathan Spalding

Henry Clay High School English Teacher Nathan Spalding said he was logging into his computer in his classroom around 7:35 am Wednesday when he “noticed what looked like a scrunchie on the phone.”

“I got closer and realized it was a snake,” said Spalding.

Spalding said the incidents are indicative of infestations at Lexington’s Henry Clay High School that include mice, roaches and spiders.

On Thursday, Spalding told the Herald-Leader, a mouse fell from the ceiling in a different classroom while a colleague was teaching.

“It landed on a student’s desk and caused quite a commotion,” he said.

Yet another coworker has had three mice fall from her ceiling this school year, though not when students were in the classroom.

“The custodians have been using glue traps to catch them. However, some mice will chew off their limbs to escape the glue, ”he said.

District officials did not immediately comment Thursday after receiving a text and an email from the Herald-Leader about the incidents the teacher described.

But they provided a letter that Henry Clay Principal Paul Little sent to families Thursday responding to “a social media post circulating this week, claiming that our school’s health and safety was at risk due to unwanted pests inhabiting our building.”

Little said in the letter that the health and safety of students and staff is a top priority, and “our school leaders are working alongside the Fayette County Public Schools operations and maintenance teams to address these concerns. “

Spalding said Kentucky Fish and Wildlife staff saw a photo of the snake and identified it as a baby rat snake. A newly formed gap had been created in the ceiling tiles allowing the snake to fall through, Spalding said.

A custodian removed the snake with tongs and took it outside, he said.

Spalding said the incident on Thursday was the first that he had heard of a mouse falling from the ceiling with students in the classroom.

“We also had a mouse run through the cafeteria during our Back to School faculty meeting,” he said.

Fellow Henry Clay teacher Jeni Ward said mice have run through her classroom. She said everyone in the building – including administrators – is doing everything they can to help with the problem.

But she said district officials should match that energy.

“I feel like when snakes and mice are dropping from your ceiling, I feel like this is an emergency. We can’t wait, ”Ward said.

Ward said district officials should act faster.

Little’s letter to families said as the weather begins to turn cooler it is not uncommon for rodents and pests to find their way into buildings.

“Each fall, our buildings and grounds maintenance teams work proactively to lay traps and spray repellent. Additionally, last week, our building was evaluated and treated by professional exterminators as part of the district’s ongoing maintenance protocols, ”the letter said.

“We will continue to take all steps necessary to ensure that Henry Clay High School is a welcoming place to learn and work,” it said.

District officials have previously said that Henry Clay High School, whose current building opened in the 1970s, is one of the schools that they want to modernize or replace. The school has had past problems with a lack of air conditioning in sweltering heat.

“Most people seem shocked about the working conditions teachers in public education are forced to endure, but I don’t feel like most teachers are that surprised,” Spalding said.

This story was originally published September 22, 2022 4:33 PM.

Staff writer Valarie Honeycutt Spears covers K-12 education, social issues and other topics. She is a Lexington native with southeastern Kentucky roots.

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