Parents say school district prevented protected migratory birds from returning to nest

CABARRUS COUNTY, N.C. — Parents are expressing concerns after they say a local school district is fighting their efforts to save a beloved elementary school.

They said the district blocked off the chimney at Beverly Hills Elementary School, preventing protected chimney swiftbirds from living there.

Channel 9 reporter Jonathan Lowe spoke with the Cabarrus County Schools superintendent, who said the incident was a mistake.

Previously, the chimney at the elementary school had become a home for a migratory bird called a chimney swift.

Chimney swifts are protected by the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

Parents and neighbors trying to save the now-closed Beverly Hills Elementary School from being demolished are not accusing district officials of hiring a company to cap off the chimney top on Monday.

This prevented the birds from returning Monday night.

“There was some kind of netting covering the top of the chimney,” said concerned parent Laura Rogers.

Rogers said she and other neighbors “watched in horror” as the birds tried to get back into the chimney.

“They were in a panic. They were distressed; it was heartbreaking,” Rogers explained.

What’s key about this situation is that during Monday night’s school board meeting, district officials told the school board the chimney top had not been closed, despite videos showcasing otherwise.

This has caused so much backlash that the superintendent felt the need to speak out, saying the capping was not their intention. Instead, the company was just supposed to inspect the chimney.

“It’s their standard operating procedure to cap things, and when we became aware of that, we said we didn’t want a cap; we wanted to verify if there were any living chimney swifts or any babies that we could observe so we could protect them,” said Cabarrus County Schools Superintendent John Kopicki.

And while the cap has now been removed, many neighbors said they still don’t buy the district’s excuse.

“No, it doesn’t make sense; that’s a bald-faced lie. Who would go up there, accredited, certified, licensed, wildlife anything, go up there on protected birds in a chimney, to do any kind of work without being told to do that work?” said Rogers.

Meanwhile, this situation has caught the attention of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

In a statement sent to Channel 9, the organization said an organization could face a fine of up to $200,000 for violations. They also say they don’t share details about ongoing investigations.

VIDEO: PETA, parents join forces to protect Cabarrus Co. school after migratory bird nest found in chimney

Jonathan Lowe

Jonathan Lowe, wsoctv.com

Jonathan is a reporter for WSOC-TV.

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