By Kristin Bednarski
Batavia Elementary School students were sent home Thursday, Nov. 1, and the school was closed Nov. 2 because of an illness that infected more than 20 percent of the school.
According to Batavia Elementary School Principal Renee Munro, more than 160 students were out of school the morning of Nov. 1, and more than 200 students were ill by the end of the day with symptoms that included nausea and vomiting.
Munro encouraged parents to pick up their children early Nov. 1 and announced that the elementary school would be closed on Nov. 2.
“In the middle of the morning on Thursday, we contacted the health district,” Superintendent Jill Grubb said. “They came in and started doing an investigation. Upon working with them it was their recommendation to close the school.”
Clermont County Health Commissioner Marty Lambert said they have inspected the school but they do not yet know the source of the illness.
“We are confirming things are as they should be,” Lambert said about the inspection. “We did inspect their cafeteria and talk with service people.”
Lambert said they found that some ill students purchased lunch at school while other ill students brought lunch from home.
“Sometimes you’re just looking for the commonality,” Lambert said about the inspection.
The health department did indicate that the illness was not an outbreak of seasonal influenza, which is an upper respiratory disease with symptoms that include a cough, fever and body aches.
The symptoms children and staff experienced at the middle school included diarrhea, nausea and vomiting.
“We were surprised at how quickly it was spreading,” Grubb said about the illness. “That is something you can never plan for.”
Grubb said children would also be out of school Nov. 19 and 20 for previously-scheduled professional development days, which kept students out of the building for five days.
“When you have an outbreak like this, the firsts concern is you want to try to stop the spread,” Lambert said.
Lambert said closing the school and having students stay home until Wednesday provided an opportunity for staff to disinfect the school and allow time for students and staff to recover from the illness.
Lambert said they are still working to figure out what the illness was and what may have caused it to spread so quickly.
“That was a large number very quickly,” Lambert said about the illness. “That was unusual for us.”
She said they will be sending out samples they collected from their inspection at the school and have begun conducting a survey to help answer questions about the illness.
“We are trying to gather information from the ill students and hopefully some of the well students so we can back track and try to figure out what happened,” Lambert said.
She said the school has been very cooperative and all parties involved want the incident resolved.
“The unfortunate part is it takes time,” Lambert said. “My guess is everyone will be back in school and well before we find out what happened.”
While Lambert said everyone certainly has guesses about what the illness could be, she said they will wait to make an announcement until they know for sure.
“It is some unknown agent that thankfully didn’t make people severely ill,” Lambert said.
Students returned to school on Wednesday.