As most high schoolers are busy preparing for their end-of-year exams, those at McCallum High School in Austin are trying to steer clear of the raccoons.
In recent weeks, raccoon sightings inside the school have peaked, according to KXAN.
This unusual distraction is difficult for the student body to ignore, especially with one reportedly falling through the ceiling panels and onto a student.
“It was scared … What if it bit her? What if it had rabies?” Morgan Eye, a McCallum journalism student, told KXAN.
The common raccoon is a curious and intelligent animal, according to Texas Parks and Wildlife. But once it decides to call a place home, it is difficult to convince it otherwise.
In the case of McCallum, campus safety monitor Bob Bedard told students in charge of the school’s newspaper, The Shield, that the raging raccoon problem may have been triggered by a lone raccoon with a crippled paw.
It managed to get inside the building during COVID-19 lockdowns and had at least two litters of cubs thereafter.
“Honestly, they’re probably gonna be back in tonight,” Bedard told The Shield, referring to three raccoons he had removed one April morning in the course of an hour. “This school’s like a sponge; there’s holes everywhere. There’s squirrels and rats and other things; it’s a 70-year-old building.”
In fact, Eye’s classmate Noah Braun found reports of raccoons inside the school dating back to the 90s.
Centuries ago, the raccoon was imported to other countries for its fur. Yet as an invasive species, it ended up wreaking havoc beyond its native North America, causing damage to crops and threatening local ecosystems.
In Japan — where raccoons were imported as pets — native species of salamander and crayfish were brought to the brink of extinction.
Yet the raccoon also carries a significant threat to one’s health due to their propensity for carrying diseases such as rabies.
Braun told KXAN that a dead raccoon was recently found in the walls of McCallum High School, describing it as “rotting and … spreading its smell everywhere.”
The situation has caused alarm among students, officials, and parents alike.
The Austin Independent School District issued a statement assuring parents that officials are taking the matter seriously and that steps are being taken to address the issue in a humane and effective manner.
“We have contacted our Pest Management Department, a professional wildlife removal specialist, and they have already started working to prevent them from coming into the building with exclusion work, as well as setting humane traps for any others that we may not know about,” the statement read, according to KXAN.
Last year at McCallum High School, 74% of students managed to score at grade level on their STAAR exams, according to the Texas Education Agency accountability report. This is better than the 50% of students logged district-wide for Austin ISD and far better than the 41% seen at Dallas ISD.
It is yet to be seen whether the raccoon distractions will cause any problems for McCallum’s student body this school year.