Huntsville school staff work to battle rat problem at McDonnell Elementary School

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) -  A concerned mother contacted our newsroom with a problem. She said she has seen rats and their droppings at her son's school in Huntsville.

When you send a loved one off to school, you expect them to be safe and healthy while they're there. WHNT News 19 we took action to dig deeper into the situation at McDonnell Elementary School.

Huntsville City School spokesman Keith Ward says the school system is aware of the problem and they've been doing lots of work to eradicate the rats. A team of exterminators and school staff has started repairs. They discovered a third grade classroom is being affected the most.

"They found an access point that was in a boiler room," said Ward.

But the rats kept coming. One viewer tells us she was so concerned, she called the Madison County Health Department. School leaders revisited the issue and found the rats were also getting in through an old heating unit that's no longer in use.

"What they did was they have resealed that unit and vacuumed out and cleaned out anything inside that unit," Ward explained.

The school system also has rat traps set outside the building. Crews inside the building are working on removing what may be attracting the rodents.

"We're also doing a deep clean," Ward said. "It's literally from top to bottom where they take every book off every shelf, every storage container out of every cabinet."

Ward wants to stress how seriously they are taking this issue and how proactive they are trying to be.

"If parents are worried about something, the first thing they need to do is they can simply go to the school principal and bring that up," he explained. "We've got over 40 buildings, so we've got an extensive team that can go and be allocated when a problem like this arises."

Ward said the school will likely move students from the affected classroom to a different one while they monitor the situation to make sure the rats are actually gone now that the known access points have been sealed.