Parents fear 'germ zone' at school where 25% of kids stayed home sick this week

One quarter of students at Hammond Elementary School called in sick Monday as the school battles a variety of illnesses.

Unusually high number of absences leads to extra cleaning measures at Maple Ridge elementary school

Hammond Elementary in Maple Ridge had about one quarter of its students call in sick on Monday. (Google Street View)

It was a rough few days for Nicole Critten and her eight-year-old son Luke McKie, though she says it could have been worse.

"He was burning up with fever for three days — dizzy, sore throat, just general misery and then there are some who have had the vomiting version of it," she said.

"I am thankful we didn't have that one, but it is going around as well."

Both versions have been going around with a vengeance at Hammond Elementary School, according to the Maple Ridge School District.

On Monday, 95 children called in sick or about a quarter of the school population of 382. The staff has also been decimated, with seven teachers off sick the same day.

"It doesn't seem to be any one thing in particular. Some kids have colds. Some kids have the flu, and it is not affecting any one classroom in particular either," said district spokesperson Irena Pochop.

"What we are hearing is we have three or four children, at a minimum, absent from each of the classes in the school," she said.

School received an enhanced cleaning

Pochop said when the number of absences began to rise at an unusual rate last week, the school received an extra scrub-down.

It got another one Monday night.

"In addition to the regular custodian that we have at the school, we bring in another custodian who will focus on disinfecting the high touch points," Pochop said.

"That would be your door handles, the light switches, arm chair rests — all those points that are likely to be touched frequently and where germs collect," she said.

If you are sick don't go to the mall that day. Don't go to school that day and don't go to work that day.- Dr. Ingrid Tyler, Medical Health Officer

Parents are hopeful the situation has turned a corner with absences down to 69 on Tuesday.

But Pochop says it is a reminder for parents to keep their kids at home when they are sick, for their comfort and the protection of all the other students.

An idea echoed by the Fraser Health Authority.

It says they are seeing normal numbers of influenza cases for this time of year and it is still not too late for a flu shot.

It adds schools are not the only good breeding grounds for illness.

"If you take transit for example or if you are out in the park or have any contact with people at the mall doing Christmas shopping, you would be putting yourself potentially at risk of an infection," said Medical Health Officer, Dr. Ingrid Tyler.

"Wash your hands to protect yourself and cough into your sleeve to protect others and best thing is, if you are sick don't go to the mall that day. Don't go to school that day and don't go to work that day," she said.

But Nicole Critten understands the challenges that presents for some parents.

"It is tough if you have two working parents that don't have flexible schedules and illness is going on and on. It is difficult to juggle all of that," she said.

"I know it is tough and people don't have options, but it is really important so we don't wipe out the entire school," she added.

She says she is lucky her younger son in Grade 1 has escaped so far.

"But everyday I am sending him back into the germ zone, so we will see."