By Andrea Cordle
Grove City Editor
Families in Grove City will have to find alternative preschool plans if their child was enrolled in the city’s RecSchool. The large barn at Gantz Park, where the city holds RecSchool classes as well as other community events, will be closed for the foreseeable future because a bat colony has taken up residence in the structure.
According to William Vedra, the city’s deputy city administrator, officials found out about the colony a few weeks ago after a facility maintenance employee found bat droppings. Once the droppings were reported, city officials called an exterminator and had a consultant look at the building. The exterminator found evidence of bat bugs inside the structure. Bat bugs are a parasite that feed on bats and look like bed bugs. The consultant came to the park in the evening and verified that a bat colony was living inside the structure.
According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), a colony can include hundreds of bats.
“We can’t have kids in that building,” said Vedra.
The city has hired a company that will remove the roof from the structure, as well as some siding as they think the bats may also be in the walls.
“We are now allowed to promote their relocation,” said Vedra.
According to ODNR, all species of bat in the state are protected and cannot be intentionally harmed. To protect flightless bat pups, it is against the law to perform an exclusion between May 16 and July 31 if there are 15 or more bats inside of a structure. Exclusion devices, like attached netting, allow the bats to safely exit but it keeps them from getting back inside.
Vedra said once the bats have been cleared from the building, city leaders will be able to go inside and assess the damage.
“The damage could be extensive,” said Vedra.
According to the deputy city administrator, they will likely have to remove the dry wall and complete major repairs before reopening to the public.
“We don’t have a good picture right now, but we could have to restore the building,” said Vedra.
The roof will be removed in the coming days.
“We won’t know the full cost or the extent of the damage for a while,” said Vedra.
ODNR states that bats are insectivores, meaning they eat insects. They are usually able to exist near human habitats without people knowing. They should be removed from homes and structures where there is human activity due to potential health concerns for humans.
City officials hope the bats will leave the barn and find a home in the trees or wooded areas.
RecSchool, based in Gantz Park, uses nature-based activities to encourage learning in children ages 3-4. It is operated by the Grove City Parks and Recreation Department and runs from September through May.
According to Vedra, RecSchool can accommodate approximately 110 children. His own grandson was enrolled in the program.
“It’s disappointing,” said Vedra referring to the closing of the preschool. “We are working to come up with alternatives.”
He said those alternatives take time and could involve relicensing.
The city has already notified the families that were enrolled in RecSchool of the closure and provided a list of 13 other preschools in the area.