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It started out as the most fowl school prank in Philadelphia history. But now it’s just plain foul. That’s because even after 85 frightened, displaced Rhode Island reds were wrangled out of the hallways of Northeast High School, there is something left behind: Chicken poop — and lots of it.
Enough, in fact, to require a Health Department inspection to clear Northeast High to reopen today for its 3,600 students. Last night, school-district spokesman Fernando Gallard said that "we’ve been given the all-clear" by the Health Department, and that the school was set to reopen early this morning. "All the ruffled feathers have been smoothed out," Gallard said.
He said that school maintenance workers had swabbed down the hallways with a cleaning solution of bleach and water to disinfect the areas, where roaming hens spent Sunday night and early Monday morning. The raucous all-hen slumber party — there were no roosters in the bunch — may have been the work of four people seen on a surveillance-camera videotape near the front entrance of the school at about 9:30 p.m. Sunday, police and school-district officials said.
Some students said they think it was a Senior Class prank, because this year’s graduating class is the school’s 167th and the numbers 167 were found inside the school. The chickens were found when a building engineer opened the school at 5 a.m. yesterday, Gallard said. The 85 hens were running up and down hallways from the basement to the first and second floors of the three-story building, at Cottman and Algon avenues, in Rhawnhurst.
By the time most students arrived at school about 7:30 a.m., the chickens had been rounded up, said student Bernard Cephas, a junior. He said all he saw was a lot of chicken feed still on the floor when he arrived. But 16-year-old Yardleye, a sophomore who always gets to school early — she arrived at 6:40 a.m. — said that as soon as she walked through the metal detectors, she saw a man walking down the hallway carrying a chicken. "I was wondering why he had a chicken in his hands, and I said, ‘OK, that’s something new,’" said Yardleye, who did not want to give her last name.
Her friend Traci Benson, 16, a junior, said that girls were immediately sent to the auditorium and boys were sent to the gym before the students were dismissed from school for the day so that the building could be cleaned. Gallard said that the chickens were rounded up with the help of staffers from the Fox Chase Farm, a demonstration farm managed by the Swenson Arts and Technology High School on Red Lion Road. Swenson teaches vocational classes in agricultural industries and environmental sciences.
Gallard said that the farm staff brought in crates and advised school maintenance workers to turn off all the lights. "They turned off all the lights and the hens stopped running," Gallard said. People who work with chickens think the prank must have been shocking to the hens. Continue reading