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At the feet of unsuspecting toddlers on an otherwise enjoyable Spring day, a mouse was spotted in the yard of the Child Development Center on campus. Usually, rodent sightings are a cause for panic. On this occasion, the opposite transpired.

“The children were intrigued and walked toward the mouse,” said Virginia Tsubamoto, a child care specialist at the Center. “It [just] ran away.”

Tsubamoto added that it is not unusual to see wildlife around the Center and on campus. The children take regular walks and often see creatures. Crickets. Bugs. Bunnies. Frogs. Guest appearances from mice, from that perspective, aren’t so strange.

“We mostly tell the kids to leave them alone,” Tsubamoto said. “But we do use the animals to teach gentleness and respect also. Some children are afraid of mice, others see them as friendly furry friends.”

One can only hope, where mice are concerned, the lessons are without skin to fur contact. 

Before school re-opened for the spring semester, the Maintenance and Operations (M&O) crew launched a full-scale assault, using snap traps and black boxes to control a mice infestation on campus. One of the areas affected, which perhaps most offends one’s sensibilities, was the Child Development Center.

“That’s hard to think about,” LPC president Dyrell Foster said of the idea of mice roaming the space of toddlers.

But the director of the Center declared the problem solved and the children secure from rodents.

“To date,” Stephany Chavez said in an email, “there are no new reports of mice at the Center.”

No children were harmed during the vermin siege and the Center has returned to its normal functioning. Mice infestations present a health hazard. So having them invade the primary space where children dwell on campus can be especially concerning. Moreover, there are also possible psychological ramifications that make solving and keeping this problem solved a priority. 

The fear of mice is common among the human species. Rodents are considered dirty animals that exist in unsanitized places, such as sewers and subway tunnels. They have a reputation for carrying bacteria and diseases. Famous plagues — such as the Black Death bubonic pandemic which wiped out as much as half of 14th-century Europe — have been blamed on rodents.

That’s why Nadiyah Taylor, an Early Childhood Education teacher at Las Positas, said the biggest issue with the mice infestation might be the emotional climate it created. 

“Some of the children got startled or frightened when they saw a mouse,” Taylor said. “Some of the teachers were unsettled, which can translate to the children.”

The infestation required increased vigilance from teachers. The last thing anyone wanted was a child playing with a dead mouse or its droppings.

“Does it reflect our best foot forward? No. Of course not,” Foster said. “We don’t want an infestation on campus. But it happened and we’re going to take responsibility. We’re going to communicate all the things we did to address it.”

The infestation began over Winter Break, 2023. When students and staff members returned to campus in January, they were not alone. Mice had besieged the entire campus. 

How many mice is uncertain. But an anonymous Maintenance and Operations worker told The Express, “I’ve never seen so many mice. Period.” The Winter Break assault was not LPC’s first. Mice also overran LPC in fall 2016.

Dionicia Ramos is the director of Public Relations, Marketing and Government Relations for the Chabot-Las Positas Community College District. She said, via email, the LPC grounds department took immediate action by increasing indoor traps and increasing the bait in the outdoor traps. She also said all food was removed and “special cleaning” was performed.   

In the process, the source of entry into the Center was discovered. Chavez said it was determined mice were getting in through small cracks that were difficult to see.

“Those cracks were sealed,” Chavez said in the email.

The possibility of mice cohabiting with kids is unnerving, and can inadvertently create tension in the environment. That tension would also impact the children.

Said Nadiyah Taylor, “I clearly got the sense (from the staff) of, ‘will this ever end?’”

School officials believe it has ended. The work of the Maintenance & Operations staff received the campus and the Child Development Center from the vermin.

There should be no more surprise visits from furry friends. 

Not for a while, at least. 

Carol Perry is a contributing writer for The Express.

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