Widespread sickness forced a Springdale school to close its doors Friday. Administrators are not sure what caused the illness, but a state Health Department official said the sickness may be Norovirus.
Hellstern Middle School was closed Friday after more than 300 students became ill Thursday before and during school, according to the Springdale School District.
"There were actually 204 kids that were absent Thursday before any of this even happened," district spokesperson Rick Schaeffer said. "The sickness happened at school, and there were a little over 100 that actually exited the school during the day through getting sick."
"The nature of the illness appears to be a stomach virus," according to a news release from the superintendent.
"It does not appear to be food poisoning, simply because there were a lot of people, including faculty, that have been affected by this that did not eat food in the school cafeteria anytime this week, and there are some kids that have gotten sick that did not eat the food," Schaeffer said.
The Arkansas Health Department is not ruling out food poisoning as the cause.
"Absolutely not," said Dr. Dirk Haselow. "We are collecting samples that include stool samples to look for baceterial causes of diahherea and vomiting. A lot of people just lump that together with food poisoning."
The release states administrators consulted with their school nurse, as well as county and state health officials, before deciding to close Hellstern Middle School for Friday.
"[W]e believe it is best to close Hellstern Middle School Friday in order to allow students to recuperate and have a thorough cleansing of the school," the release states.
Classes are scheduled to resume Tuesday, following the Martin Luther King Day holiday Monday.
Administrators said it may be the first time in Springdale school history that an entire school will be closed because students are sick.
A parent whose children attend the school told 5NEWS some kids were throwing up in the halls and classrooms.
Norovirus is categorized by vomiting, stomach aches and diarrhea. It can be spread by human contact or through food.
No other Springdale schools are affected, and no other school had a large number of students go home sick Thursday.
The school district plans to resume classes Tuesday at 8 a.m.
Full statement from Springdale School District Supt. Jim Rollins:
- Throughout the day a significant number of students at Hellstern Middle School got sick. The nature of the illness appears to be a stomach virus. In consulting with our school nurse and Washington County and state health officials we believe it is best to close Hellstern Middle School Friday in order to allow students to recuperate and have a thorough cleansing of the school. Monday is Martin Luther King Day and there are no classes, so school will resume at Hellstern Tuesday.