The Fate Of Classroom Pets Becomes Uncertain During The Pandemic

May 19, 2020
Originally published on May 19, 2020 7:21 pm
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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

When schools closed this spring, many classroom pets took up refuge with teachers and students.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Well, distance learning has stretched from weeks into months. And so those temporary lodgings have turned into extended stays.

SCOTT KEFGEN: I have a gerbil named Oreo, a tank with three fire-bellied toads, jumping jacks, a lily pad and hopscotch, our leopard geckos, Archie, Betty and Veronica. And I also have two yellow-bellied cooter turtles named Peanut Butter and Jelly.

KELLY: Wow. That is Scott Kefgen. He teaches first grade in Michigan. His family pitched in to move the animals home.

SHAPIRO: And now they take up most of the living room. But Kefgen doesn't mind. His students often ask about their furry and scaly classmates.

KEFGEN: It's a great reminder of the privilege I had to be with my students every day. And it's also a great source of connection that I still have with my students.

KELLY: Meanwhile, Dominic Crapuchettes took in two hedgehogs from his son Daniel's third-grade class in Maryland.

DOMINIC CRAPUCHETTES: Tiggy and Hedgy - well, actually it's Mrs. Tiggy-winkle.

KELLY: Yeah, because then...

CRAPUCHETTES: My son was getting the hedgehogs ready and giving them food. And he said, oh, my God. There are babies. There are babies. And yes, sure enough, we had three babies. They're just adorable right now.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD #1: He licks everything.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD #2: That's way too slobbery.

SHAPIRO: In Brooklyn, first grader Aram Agha is watching Holly the tortoise. Holly is Aram's first pet.

ARAM AGHA: And I hear her right now crawling. I take her iceberg lettuce and then put a giant piece of iceberg lettuce at the end of the trail. When she gets to the biggest piece, she just sits on it and starts eating it.

KELLY: His mom, Christine Topalian-Agha, says Holly has been a bright spot.

CHRISTINE TOPALIAN-AGHA: My littlest one will walk in and say good morning to Holly in the morning. Sort of gives them something new every day. And I think all the kids really need things like that, just something to be comforted by right now.

SHAPIRO: When Holly eventually goes back to school, Aram says he's planning to get a tortoise of his own.

KELLY: And to see photos of Aram and Holly, check out photographer Sarah Stacke's photo story at npr.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.