"Donated" trash may have contributed to the litter around trash binscited by county health inspectors in their most recent checks of school cafeterias.
The Health Department also found rodent droppings at one of the county's oldest schools, Mount Hebron High, and its newest, Waverly Elementary.
One food-handling violation, which could have allowed bacteria growth, was cited at Clemens Crossing Elementary.
Despite those problems, school cafeterias generally received high marks from inspectors-- 37 of the 38 inspected had scores above 90 and no cafeteria failed inspection.
"The schools are generally pretty good," said Barbara Hesse-Beadling, director of community environmental health serviceswith the Howard County Health Department.
Health officials treat litter around trash bins and rodent droppings as issues "that needs correcting," Hesse-Beadling said.
The inspectors' most serious concerns, however, are how the food is prepared and handled and whether bacteria have any chance to grow before the food is served.
A new inspection form being adopted statewide will focus on food preparationand service, giving custodial and maintenance items a lower priority.
The scoring system, which will be dropped on the new form, givesequal weight to violations.
"You could be knee deep in sewage andstill get a 95. Or you could have very good food handling but be in an old building that was not in good repair and get a bad score," said Jeanette B. Lyon, food rating officer for the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
At Clemens Crossing, the inspector found that tomato soup in a warming pan was at 100 degrees, 40 degrees below what health officials consider safe.
Her report said the staff reheated the soup immediately when the problem was discovered.
Once the soup was reheated, the school received a perfect score.
Lyon said staff shortages allowed the department to check only 38 of the 50 county public schools in 1990-1991, but none of the schools checked had violations serious enough to require follow-up inspections.
Robert S. Lazarewicz, director of operations for the school system, also said he was pleased with the results.
"There were a lot of 100s, perfect scores, in there and a lot in the high 90s. They seem overall very good," he said.
Eight schools received perfect scores.Mount Hebron High received the lowest score, an initial 81 and an 83after two violations were corrected immediately. The Health Department considers 70 a passing score.
The most common violation was missing or broken thermometers in refrigerators and freezers. Inspectorsfound thermometer problems at 15 schools.
Because the thermometers tend to get jarred or broken, Lazarewicz said, the school system keeps a stock for replacements.
Six schools were cited for litter around exterior trash bins, a problem that school system Custodial and Grounds Manager Robert C. Harrison blames partly on individuals who use the trash bins as their own.
"A lot of the trash brought in is not our trash," Harrison said. In addition to household refuse, "somebody will bring a couch or something and just let it sit there," he said.
Harrison said debris around the trash bins is also a problem after the twice-weekly refuse collections, since items fall out when bins are emptied into the trucks.
The county government offers residents free bulk pickup of appliances and furniture, although the service excludes tree branches and construction debris.
People may beleaving large items at schools because they're not aware of the bulkpickup program, although the county does publicize it, said Vanessa Webb, secretary for the Public Works Department's Environmental Services Division.
"Or they may be moving and we can't get there fast enough," she said.
The county agency requires residents to schedulebulk pickup 10 days in advance and offers the service once a week.
At Mount Hebron, built in 1965, violations ranged from maintenance flaws, such as worn and broken shelves, to an uncovered barrel with grease spilled on the surrounding concrete.
"If there are rodents in the area, it (spilled grease) can be a food source for them," Hesse-Beadling said. Rodent droppings were found in a food storage room.
Lazarewicz said all maintenance-related violations at the Hebron cafeteria have been or will be repaired.
Mary Klatko, the school system's food services supervisor, was attending a conference Thursday and Friday and was unavailable for comment.
Hebron cafeteria manager Willie Singleton could not be reached at her home.
It is not surprising to find rodent droppings at a new school like Waverly, Hesse-Beadling said.
"Sometimes you'll have a rodent population establish itself during construction," she said.
SCHOOL CAFETERIA INSPECTIONS
SCHOOL... ... ... ... SCORE
Atholton Elem... ... ... 97
Bollman Bridge Elem... 100
Bryant Woods Elem... .. 96
Bushy Park Elem... ... .99
Cedar Lane... ... ... . 99
Centennial High... ... .97
Centennial Lane Elem.. 100
Clarksville Elem... ... 91
Clarksville Middle... . 98
Clemens Crossing Elem. 100
Elkridge Elem... ... .. 99
Ellicott Mills Middle.. 95
Gateway... ... ...... 100
Glenwood Middle... ... .93
Guilford Elem... ... .. 98
Harper's Choice Middle 100
Jeffers Hill Elem... .. 97
LaurelWoods Elem... . 100
Lisbon Elem... ... ... .96
Longfellow Elem... ... .95
Mount Hebron High... .. 83
Northfield Elem... ... .98
Ow. Brown/Dasher Green. 97
Patapsco Middle... ... .94
Patuxent Valley Middle 100
Phelps Luck Elem... ... 99
Running Brook Elem... . 99
St. John's Lane Elem... 97
Stevens Forest Elem... 100
Swansfield Elem... ... .99
Talbott Springs Elem... 97
Waterloo Elem... ... .. 97
Waverly Elem... ... ... 92
West Friendship Elem... 98
Wilde Lake High... ... .96
Wilde Lake Middle... .. 97
Worthington Elem... ... 98
SOURCE: County Health Department