Two local elementary schools dealing with virus

Dozens still out at Walnut Grove; Hockinson affected too

By Justin Runquist, Columbian Small Cities Reporter



More deep cleaning was planned overnight Monday at Vancouver’s Walnut Grove Elementary School as a stubborn bug that causes nausea, vomiting and diarrhea continued to cause absenteeism. Meanwhile, an outbreak at Hockinson Elementary School might be contained.

Dozens of students were out sick Monday at Walnut Grove Elementary, where the gastroenteritis struck last week.

On Friday, 133 Walnut Grove students stayed home from school or were sent away early. On Monday, the school reported 88 absences, with about 60 of those likely due to gastroenteritis.

Gastroenteritis viruses are well-known for quickly spreading through schools, nursing homes, cruise ships and other crowded places.

Also on Friday, 50 students at Hockinson Elementary School in Brush Prairie stayed home or left school early with the same symptoms.

“Many members of our staff worked over the weekend to thoroughly clean and disinfect the elementary school based on the recommendations of the Clark County Public Health Department,” said Laurie Lemieux, a spokeswoman for the Hockinson School District.

Hockinson had no new reports of illnesses Monday, said Theresa Cross, a health educator with Clark County Public Health. The department sent a letter to each of the schools recommending a temporary closure for deep cleaning.

The outbreaks come less than three weeks after a similar situation at Columbia Valley Elementary in the Evergreen district that left about 40 students and staff out sick with symptoms of gastroenteritis.

Custodial crews cleaned restrooms, tabletops, doorknobs and other surfaces throughout the school. But the virus continued to spread the following day, leading Columbia Valley to shut down for a weekend for another cleaning.

In all, this past week’s outbreak at Walnut Grove hit nearly 18 percent of its students. Schools are required to report to the health department when at least 10 percent of the student body is absent.

Vancouver Public Schools sent an extra cleaning crew to Walnut Grove over the weekend and the school was to undergo another round of cleaning Monday night, district spokeswoman Pat Mattison said. Many of Monday’s absences at the school are students who were ill on Friday or their siblings, Mattison said.

The health department sent the same letter to each of the schools, recommending thorough and frequent hand washing. Parents are encouraged to monitor their children’s health and keep them home for 48 hours if they have any symptoms of the virus.

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