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Queens Chronicle

Bedbugs found in Astoria school

Education Department failed to notify school, angering many

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Posted: Thursday, September 8, 2011 12:00 pm | Updated: 3:07 pm, Thu Sep 15, 2011.

Bedbugs have infested PS 70, an elementary school in Astoria, according to reports published last week, which said the school has the worst bedbug problem in the city.

The Department of Education discovered the infestation last December, including evidence the bugs were breeding, but never told anyone at the school about it.

For the first time, the DOE has admitted the problem came from within the school itself. In the past, the department has claimed bedbugs were brought into schools by students.

Residents and area politicians are incensed with the agency’s oversight.

State Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) is particularly upset, as he actually drafted a bedbug bill, which was signed into law in August 2010, requiring that schools notifty parents of any discovered bedbug cases. The legislation also requires that schools provide parents with educational materials about how to prevent bedbug infestations through health and hygiene.

“Obviously in the case of PS 70 that did not happen,” Gianaris’ office wrote in an email.

He has sent a letter to schools Chancellor Dennis Wallcott asking for an investigation into the matter.

“I respectfully request an immediate explanation and investigation as to why the Department of Education failed to comply with their own regulations at PS 70 as well as why unique notification measures were not taken after it was found to have breeding bedbugs,” Giannaris wrote in the letter.

The principal of PS 70, Donna Geller, was never told inspectors had visited the school at all, the Daily News reported.

Other area politicians have weighed in, including Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas (D-Astoria). In a statement, Simotas said that the DOE’s notification failure is “outrageous” and had put “students and teachers at risk.”

Last year, just a month before the agency found bedbugs in PS 70, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer declared “war” on bedbugs in schools.

At the time, however, despite an apparent rise in bedbug cases around the city, Mayor Bloomberg’s administration had already cut back on the number of inspectors and pest control aides.

“Every time we find a single bedbug, we are required to report it,” a spokesperson for the DOE told the Chronicle last November.

In 2009, there were 426 confirmed bedbug cases in schools, according to the City Council’s Bed Bug Advisory Board.

Welcome to the discussion.