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Calling DOE 'cheap,' councilwoman demands bedbug answers

With school doors set to open in just weeks, City Councilwoman Gale Brewer wants to know why the education department hasn’t hired a contractor to handle the resurgence of bedbugs in its classrooms.

“I ask that you immediately initiate a bedbug treatment contract to deal with this issue before the start of the school year,” Brewer wrote to Chancellor Dennis Walcott last month.

Brewer penned the letter in response to a GothamSchools report that showed a tripling in the number of bedbugs cases found in schools last year, to 3,590.

The surge of cases has placed strain on the Department of Education’s pest management division, which is required to treat every case of bedbugs. Normally, that work is handled by a private pest management company, but schools have been without a specialized contractor for nearly a year.

Bidding on the new contract began nine months ago, but the DOE has yet to award it, spokeswoman Marge Feinberg said. Feinberg said that the city planned to respond to the letter, which also requested a list of the schools that were treated for bedbugs, but had not yet done so.

Brewer, who has traced the rise of bedbugs in New York City for years and was one of the first officials to enact legislation to fight them, said that further delay would only exacerbate the problem.

“We used to get 10 calls a day from people in my district who found it all over,” Brewer said. “Luckily we’re not getting them anymore because the hotels and stores and theaters have figured out how best to treat it. It’s only the cheap people who aren’t doing it right, like the DOE.”

Brewer acknowledged that schools face a “terrible challenge” to completely eradicate bedbugs because the majority of the cases come from students who bring them from their infested homes.

The DOE has made strides to raise awareness with parents and school staff, publishing comprehensive guides for how to prevent home infestations. Staff who find bedbugs can also now email pictures of the bugs to health officials in a change meant to speed up the process for treating schools.

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