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Mosquitoes drive child from school

Officials at the preschool think the problem stems from a neighboring property and insist they've done all they can.

By JIM ROSS

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 22, 2000


photo
[Times photo: John Pendygraft]
Gabrielle Poulos, 3, has been withdrawn from Crystal River Pre-School where, her mother says, she suffered dozens of mosquito bites.
CRYSTAL RIVER -- Kim Poulos picked up her 3-year-old daughter, Gabrielle, from preschool on Thursday and was dismayed to see a familiar sight: mosquito bites all over the girl's legs.

Poulos said Thursday was the fourth time her daughter suffered such bites while at school. She has complained, but the problem persists.

Poulos withdrew her daughter from Crystal River Pre-School, where Gabrielle attends Head Start classes. She hopes to enroll the girl in another Citrus County facility that offers Head Start.

While sympathetic, the preschool owners stand by their response to the problem. They have called city officials to investigate the owner of a property near the school, which is on NE First Street. That adjacent property has many places where standing water attracts breeding mosquitoes.

Crystal River Pre-School also has arranged for the area to be sprayed. But with the rainy season, mosquitoes are bound to be around.

"I don't know what more we could do," said owner Don Geib, who also noted that no other parent has filed a similar complaint.

The explanations didn't sit well with Poulos, who also has complained to Childhood Development Services, the agency that administers Head Start in Citrus and surrounding counties. Childhood Development officials were not available for comment late Thursday.

Poulos and her daughter moved to Crystal River about eight months ago from Spring Hill. Gabrielle started Head Start classes in August, joining 32 students, ages 3-5, in two classes at Crystal River.

Soon after classes started, Gabrielle suffered mosquito bites while playing outside. Poulos alerted school staff, but the same thing happened again a few weeks later.

Wednesday might have been the worst. "She was covered in mosquito bites," Poulos said. Thirty-one, to be exact.

Once again, Poulos broke out the cortisone cream and Benadryl. And this time, she decided to speak out.

"I threw her in the car and took her right up to Childhood Development Services and I asked to speak to whoever was in charge," Poulos said. People there, as well as at Crystal River Pre-School, promised to do what they could.

Poulos asked that her daughter be kept inside until conditions improved. She arrived Thursday after school. "She was just coming inside from being outside playing. She had more mosquito bites on her leg again."

Geib said his school has been a Healthy Start provider for the past eight years.

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