A bat infestation cancelled school for KIPP Believe Primary today, and teachers spent the day packing up classrooms in order to relocate and hold class Thursday.

“In the last few days it’s gotten increasingly worse,” School Leader Sarah Beth Greenberg said.

A bat infestation at Benjamin Banneker Elementary School forced KIPP Believe staff to pack up classrooms and relocate. Credit: Marta Jewson / The Lens

Students were released early on Tuesday from the kindergarten-through-third-grade school, and classes were called off altogether today.

“This has been a problem that we did know about before we came into the building,” Greenberg said. “There has been a bat situation at Benjamin Banneker since last year.

“It was a problem, unfortunately, that was not tended to appropriately.”

KIPP Believe moved into Benjamin Banneker Elementary School in the Black Pearl neighborhood near Riverbend over the summer. It was previously in modular buildings on the Gregory campus in Gentilly.

The school is temporarily moving to Holy Rosary, a former Catholic elementary school recently vacated by by another charter school, Morris Jeff Community School.

The Banneker building is owned by the Orleans Parish School Board but controlled by the state-created Recovery School District. The RSD took over Banneker and ran the school until last year, when it closed the last of its remaining direct-run schools.

The RSD did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Greenberg said an increase in bat sightings Tuesday led her to believe the building was unsafe for staff and children.

The school has been working with a bat specialist and several other contractors to ensure the building is safe when they move in after spring break. Greenberg hopes to have her students back at a bat-free Banneker in about a month.

Bats are not unheard of in New Orleans schools. In 2011, students walked out of McDonogh No. 35 High School to protest the ongoing pest problem.

Marta Jewson

Marta Jewson covers education in New Orleans for The Lens. She began her reporting career covering charter schools for The Lens and helped found the hyperlocal news site Mid-City Messenger. Jewson returned...