I-Team: Nearly Half Of Metro Schools Have Had Mice, Pests - WSMV Channel 4

I-Team: Nearly Half Of Metro Schools Have Had Mice, Pests

The Channel Four I-Team has been looking for months at health inspection reports for kitchens in Metro Schools, and the I-Team has found several Metro School cafeterias were almost shut down over the past three years for not fixing serious problems, according to the Metro Health Department.  

With 78,000 students, Metro Schools serve thousands of meals every day. From the outside, school cafeterias appear just fine, but on the inside, several problems lurk.  

The Channel 4 I-Team spent months looking over inspection reports from the Metro Health Department and what we've found might make you sick. Over the past four years, almost half of metro's 138 school cafeterias have had multiple reports of mice droppings, roaches, and at Hillsboro Comp High School, maggots were even found in the marinara sauce.  

Inspectors found live and dead roaches all over the kitchen in Kirkpatrick Elementary School in the fall of 2010, and it's not the first time. It has had a roach and mice problem before, but nothing was done, according to health inspections, until someone called the Health Department and filed a complaint.  

On the one day inspectors stopped by Head Magnet Middle School's cafeteria in 2008, they found a body of a dead mouse on a glue trap.  

But it's John Overton High School that's the worst, according to health inspections. Inspectors noted mouse droppings 10 times on every inspection for the past two years, and it doesn't stop there. 

Inspectors also found dried blood on the flood of Gra-mar Middle School's walk in freezer, milk at Whites Creek served 20 degrees warmer than it should be and brown water flowing in hand sinks used by cafeteria workers at Pearl-Cohn High School.  

School lunchrooms were on the verge of being shut down at least 44 times over the past three years, according to inspections we looked through at the Health Department. They were almost shut down for not fixing critical violations such as rodents and serving food at improper temperatures. 

In April, the I-Team followed a metro health inspector during his visit to I.T. Creswell Arts and Magnet School. Typically, in the past, this school has scored in the low to high 90s on its inspections, but the day we were there, it's score was a 76. That is seven points away from a failing grade.  

The inspector found mold on the ice machine and an electric slicer that still had old meat on it. But the big reasons for the low score were molded onions, toxic bleach not stored properly, turkey sandwiches not cold enough and a dumpster overflowing and leaking wastewater right into a nearby creek. 

Danny Ripley, a food services inspector with the Metro Health Department said, "It's been leaking for some time because you can see the erosion on the concrete here. The contractor of the firm that has the Dumpster needs to be notified and the Dumpster needs to be repaired. We'll make sure that happens."  

But when Ripley went back to reinspect the cafeteria 10 days later, the Dumpster still hadn't been fixed.  

The Channel 4 I-Team took the findings straight to Metro School's Food Service Director, Fred Carr.  

The I-Team asked Carr if he felt that 55 reports of schools having multiple violations of mice droppings, rodents was acceptable.  

Carr said, "We have an exterminating contract through metro government, and we use those exterminators and they visit the schools monthly."  

Carr said those monthly inspections cost taxpayers more than $120,000 last year.  

But if Carr said exterminators correct the issues each month, then why do multiple reports of mice and insects keep showing up on every inspection?  

Carr said, "We call the exterminator and they do a monthly inspection and come out and address the issue."  

While it might be gross to think about having rats and roaches in your child's cafeteria, Ripley said that's not what really makes students sick. Ripley said foods that aren't hot or cold enough and unsanitary food prep are actually in the Ccenter for Disease Control and Prevention's top reasons for food-borne illnesses.  

"We do a lot of training with our managers and on workers on exactly that; food temperature, food quality," said Carr.  

The I-Team also asked Carr whether, overall, if he felt the cleanliness and the presence of rodents, mice and rats in school cafeterias is where it should be. Carr said, "I have to go on what the Health Department tells us and the records and it shows overall we run a very good operation."  

Information from the Metro Health Department shows that between January and June of 2010, the average restaurant score in Davidson County was 85, while the average school grade was 90.  

But the bottom line, unlike choosing which restaurant to eat at, your children don't have a choice where to eat lunch. Your ZIP code dictates the cafeteria and your tax dollars foot the bill.  

Metro schools are currently in the process of hiring a new exterminating company. Right now, they share the same contractor with all of metro government, but starting this summer, metro schools will be switching to a new company that Carr says can better take care of school's specialized needs.  

Over the past nine months, the Metro Health Department has received only five complaints about school cafeterias. We looked through them also and none of these turned out to cause anyone to get sick. 

Channel 4 is Working for You. Click here to look at your child's school cafeteria inspections for the past three years.

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