NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- A plague of rats has been causing trouble for two local schools, and students have been forced to deal with it for months.
As CBS2's Reena Roy reported Monday, the sickening sight has been constant since April. Rodents have been spotted crawling on walls and railings outside an elementary school on Roosevelt Island.
The colony seems to be spreading. Just minutes later, they rat after rat was spotted scurrying through the schoolyard at P.S./I.S. 217 Roosevelt Island.
"I felt like scared that they'll like run after me or something," said student Luca Staracci.
"I kind of feel like I'm in the rats' home," another student added.
The unwanted guests are swarming – crawling up the stairs behind the school cafeteria, going under an entrance gate on Main Street, and even making their way into the play area.
"Some people are terrified, and we just don't go there back there no more," said student Neriah Umeh-Atueyi.
Erka Costa said she kept her child home Monday because of the rats.
"I feel concerned, and I don't think I should be subjected to having to worry the whole entire day long," Costa said.
And it does not stop at P.S. 217. The director of the neighboring preschool said they have seen the rats make their way over, and poisonous rat bait has been set up outside the school door.
"We worry about the children and the families that are exposed, and it's really hard to get the images out of your mind," said Pamela Stark, executive director of Roosevelt Island Day Nursery.
Some residents said the root of the problem is trash left outside daily after school lunch.
"I've seen their trash out here week in and week out, and no protective containers; just clear plastic bags," said resident Judith Berdy.
But Department of Education officials said it is an island-wide issue that did not originate on school property. Residents believe otherwise.
"DOE is not doing its job," said Frank Farance.
A DOE representative said an inspection showed there are no rodents inside the school, and said the department is taking steps along with other city agencies to fix the issue. CBS2 did spot a DOE exterminator on site with a bucket of bait.
"I completely trust the school to deal with it," said parent Arva Brazil. "I think it's been hyped up a little bit."
But others say it is only a matter of time before the pesky pests crawl into the classrooms.
The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is offering a rodent educational class to residents later this month.
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