Parents pull kids out of school as flying foxes take over
PARENTS will pull their children out of a small rural school if flying foxes roosted in several trees on the grounds aren't moved on.
Members of the Helidon State School community have been left frustrated by a delayed response to the issues raised by Lockyer Valley Regional Council and the Education Department.
Some parents have kept their kids home in the last few weeks of the term, concerned with illnesses they are linking to the bats, and some won't let their children return next year.
Parent Erika Hahn said students and teachers returned to the school at the start of the term to find the flying foxes in the trees.
She said the bats were a huge health concern for students and staff.
"We have lots of really big luscious trees protecting the oval to give us some shade but these trees are right next to the classrooms," she said.
"They've actually closed of the toilet block and the children are using portaloos. (The flying foxes) are all around the classrooms and the toilet blocks.
"We have never had this many sick children at one point at the same time. There's children that are coming up with cough. Some have rashies that are unexplained by doctors.
"There's been two children off with scarlet fever and they had staph infections in sores on their faces which they've never had before."
Mrs Hahn, who has one child enrolled at the school, said she will only enrol her other son into Prep next year if the flying foxes are gone.
She gave up her role as P & C treasurer over the issue.
"We don't care about the health issues of the bats, we just want them gone to protect our children," she said.
"It seems our children are not coming first.
"They said it's not a quick fix. They don't believe the bats will be gone before school resumes next year.
"They're protected but no one is putting our children first. We've been told if we take action ourselves, there's a fine."
A Department of Education spokesperson said the department is aware of the problem and taking steps to find a solution.
"The department continues to work closely with the Department of Environment and Science and Lockyer Valley Regional Council regarding possible solutions to concerns raised by the community in relation to the flying fox colonies," they said.
"Students and staff have been informed by the school of recommended behaviours around bats, including advice that bats should not be touched or picked up.
"In the interests of student and staff safety, as a precaution, a temporary exclusion zone has been implemented around the trees affected by the colonies. Lighting has been installed to discourage roosting and a number of trees in the exclusion zone will be trimmed. Areas outside the exclusion zone are being professionally cleaned."
The department has lodged an application with DES for a Flying-fox Roost Management Permit for the school.
"The department have engaged the services of a wildlife biologist to support a plan to safely manage the flying fox population away from the school," they said.
"This aligns with the legislative requirements regarding protected species."
Lockyer Valley councillor Rick Vela, who takes care of the environment portfolio, said inspections by council staff indicated there has been a decline in the number of bats roosting at the school.