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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Jefferson elementary staff helps hatched ducks escape school courtyard

The halls of Jefferson Elementary School have been empty of kids for months now. But recently, nine youths got to waddle through .

Staff members working at the school Wednesday afternoon mounted a rescue operation for nine tiny ducklings and their mother, who were trapped in the school courtyard.

Natalie Felker, Jefferson’s office manager, said she guessed the mother duck must have flown into the courtyard to lay her eggs. Once they hatched, there was no way out for the babies.

“It gets hot back there. It’s all sidewalk, rocks and bushes,” Felker said. “There’s no water for them at all. Once we saw them, we couldn’t just leave them with no chance of survival.”

Felker called the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife for someone to assist her in getting the ducks safely out of the courtyard. Due to the ongoing pandemic, however, no one was able to help. So Jefferson’s staff decided to undertake its own rescue and escort the family out to the grassy playground.

Felker and custodian Kevin Butters corralled the mother duck and gently encouraged her to move toward the school’s doors. She would occasionally hiss and crouch as they coaxed her along, but with the nine babies sticking closely to her side, she made her way through the doors and down the hallway toward the outside world.

Jesse Tinsley - The Spokesman-Review

Once in the school, other employees lined up along the corridor using gym mats as barricades to discourage the mother duck from taking detours. As she completed her journey down the hall, she and the babies immediately hunkered down in some bushes outside the school. Staff clapped and cheered, and that was the last Felker saw of the little family.

“We worried about her all night long,” Felker said. “We’re close enough to Manito Park, but that’s a long way to go if you’re a duck.”

The daring rescue was the best part of the staff’s day, and probably month, Felker said. After weeks of working remotely or in empty classrooms, Jefferson’s staff was thrilled to have little feet pattering down the halls again – even if they were webbed.

“It’s just good to keep a bit of light in this time of really very somber news,” Felker said. “I just hope we don’t get in trouble for having wild animals in the hall.”

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