Intestinal illness prompts school closure

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A St. Albert Catholic school was closed Friday after dozens of students came down with an intestinal illness earlier that week.

Vincent J. Maloney Catholic Junior High School will get a deep clean before students return to school on Tuesday, said David Keohane, superintendent for the Greater St. Albert Catholic Schools. It was the first time in his career he took the unusual step of closing a school due to illness.

On Wednesday 37 students had symptoms of a gastrointestinal illness at Vincent J. Maloney. Parents were notified that children at the school had been ill with vomiting.

The next day there were 147 school absences, citing illness as the reason. Three staff members also became sick with the same symptoms.

While the number is significant, not all student absences may be directly related to having the intestinal illness. Some of the absences may be attributed to parents who didn’t want to risk their healthy children going to school and getting sick, said Keohane.

On Thursday parents received a notice from the school district that Vincent J. Maloney would be closed the following day. The letter said that Alberta Health Services indicated a “minimal risk of spreading further illness at school since students and staff with symptoms are staying home.”

“However, after consultation with Alberta Health Services Public Health Officers, we are taking abundant caution to ensure the health and safety of our students and staff,” the letter read.

“Generally this is deemed to be the right thing to do given the circumstances,”  Keohane said of the school closure. He said the response from parents has been positive.

Along with closing the school, the building will go through deep cleaning and disinfecting before reopening. Keohane said this would ensure the virus is killed before school reopens to students Tuesday, following the Family Day holiday.

Keohane said keeping the school closed for a day and deep cleaning the school was an effort to take preventative measures to reduce student illness.

The school asks that parents with children who are exhibiting signs of the illness call HealthLINK Alberta at 8-1-1. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

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Dayla Lahring

Dayla Lahring joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2017. She writes about business, health, general news and features. She also contributes photographs.