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School goes bats over red tape and flying foxes


Paul Tatnell September 15, 2010

Bats make school-life impossible.

Maclean High teacher and NSW Teachers Federation representative John Ambrose says the bats make it impossible for the school to operate.

Fed-up teachers at a northern NSW school claim they are being told to stop ringing the school bell, not hold sport days and plan different class times so they do not upset an influx of 20,000 flying foxes.

Staff at Maclean High School say their school has been taken over by the noisy animals and are so upset that they plan to hold a stop-work meeting on Friday.

They say bat droppings, which students then spread throughout classrooms, have made the school a health and safety risk.

Maclean High teacher and NSW Teachers Federation representative John Ambrose said the foul smell and screeching by the bats forced teachers to close windows - making classrooms "unbearable" and learning difficult.

"The kids are put off ... and the smell is just repulsive," he said.

"The smell is, particularly in wet weather, just foul and the car park and carpets are just splattered with droppings and, let me tell you, they are not steam cleaned every day; they are cleaned once a year."

But attempts to move the bats have so far been unsuccessful.

The NSW Department of Education, which removed bats 10 years ago, needs a licence and federal government approval to remove them.

Mr Ambrose said the federal government had since spent about $30,000 to form a committee to advise the school on how to approach the problem.

He said the initial recommendations, which are yet to be formally accepted, tell the school "to work around the bats".

"They want us to timetable our classes differently, they don't want us to do sporting events, they don't want us to ring our bell, they want us to minimise our voices so we don't disturb the bats," he said.

"And I understand all DET [Department of Education and Training] can do, and they have been great, is put a sprinkler in a tree.

"But this is the health and wellbeing of students at risk here."

He said students previously walked out of classrooms in a stop-work organised by the school's parent committee.

An Education Department spokesman said it was "working hard to resolve the flying foxes issue".

"We have installed air-conditioners in classrooms and built covered walkways to help protect students and staff," he said.

"We have made application to the state and Commonwealth agencies for the further removal of some trees and tree limbs which could harbour flying foxes near the school. We are awaiting the outcome of this application.

"The department has been advised of the potential for a stop-work meeting. However, this is yet to be confirmed by staff at the school. We have not been formally advised of a stop-work meeting."
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Megabats and Microbats: School goes bats over red tape and flying foxes
School goes bats over red tape and flying foxes
School goes bats over red tape and flying foxes
Megabats and Microbats
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