TULSA, Okla. — Every school in Tulsa County is inspected twice a year. Since last summer, all of them passed, but for a few it required many changes to get to that point.
"Just making sure employees are knowledgeable about how they're doing dishes, making sure they're washing their hands, food temperatures. Those can happen anywhere, not just schools," said Travis Splawn with the Tulsa Health Department.
2 Works for You did find multiple schools with repeat violations. At Bixby High School, health inspectors listed five, and issued a warning in September after finding an expired state food license, several dead roaches on the ground, and a live roach in a cabinet.
Splawn said many of the violations are related to funding, like when food isn't properly cooled or heated.
"Dealing with maybe older equipment, so they might not have the funds to re-order new equipment. That might cause temperature issues or something along those lines," he said.
At Tulsa Public Schools, the health department gave several glowing reviews across the district.
Yet at three schools in October inspectors found mouse droppings: at Bell Elementary, Mayo Demonstration School, and McClain High School. The department cited inadequate pest control, with droppings by dry goods and snack shelving.
The health department works with schools on site to solve problems, and issue warnings and follow-up visits when needed. Splawn said in general, cafeterias are cleaner than your average restaurant or bar.
"That provides a food safety challenge because you're looking at limited space for refrigeration and holding equipment... so if you're making large quantities of items and you need to cool that down or keep it hot... that might be hard if you don't have the space to do it," he said.
For TPS, staff said many of the schools serve more than 75 percent of students, which is why the district makes food safety one of its biggest priorities.
"A lot of these families live in food deserts and don't have access to adequate food at home. It's really important and that's why at all of our elementaries the kids have the opportunity to eat a meal at no cost to them," child nutrition director Kit Hines said.
Across the county there is a range of violations already this year. Union's Anderson Elementary was cited for a "green, slimish buildup" on the ground, and Liberty Public School had staff working without a food handler's permit.
Of the close to 150 reports reviewed by 2 Works for You, the majority are positive, and the negatives usually corrected the same day.
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