HALIFAX CO., Va. -

Emma Sims says she noticed something wasn't right when she started a new position, working at Halifax County Middle School.

"They told me, be careful because our buddy is here," Sims said.

Those "buddies", she says, were rats leaving behind a mess on the counters and food.

"I'm a witness. I saw it. I saw the rat droppings. I saw it go on the tray. I saw the children eating it. I saw this," Sims said.

Sims says she reported it to her boss, the cafeteria manager, on February 26th who, several months later, didn't renew her contract. The school board says the principal didn't find out until four months later.

Sims worked for the school system for 11 years but lost her job after last school year.

Last night she confronted the school board for the first time after not getting answers from school district's leaders.

According to Halifax County Schools Assistant Superintendent Valdivia Marshall, the school board started an investigation in July when they were notified but says the food covered in rat droppings never reached the students.

"It was determined that the contaminated food did reach the holding cabinet, but it did not reach the serving line and that was our main concern that the food in question was not served to any of the students, nor staff," said Valdivia Marshall, the Assistant Superintendent with Halifax County Schools.

Marshall says the news concerned the school board. Members informed the health department to check the problem in addition to letting pest control know about the rat problem.

"We did not get any orders to close or cease operations, no," Marshall said.

She says the pest control is contracted by the school district to make monthly checks at all schools.

Last night's school board meeting marked the first time this information was made public.

The school system has a new protocol when there's a problem with food that includes informing all principals of every school and the superintendent.