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The Journal Gazette

Wednesday, February 13, 2019 1:00 am

Queen of Angels reopens after 4 in 10 students ill

ASHLEY SLOBODA | The Journal Gazette

Queen of Angels Catholic School plans to resume class today after widespread illness among students prompted a multiday closure.

The school, which serves about 185 pre-kindergartners through eighth-graders, closed Friday because illness affected 31 percent of students. By Monday, about 42 percent of students were ill, prompting the West State Boulevard school to dismiss early and remain closed Tuesday.

The Allen County Health Department could not confirm the cause of illness Tuesday but noted increases in communicable diseases – including influenza and norovirus – are common this time of year.

“In this case, we have worked with the school administrators to provide infection control recommendations to help them stop the spread of illness throughout their facility (cleaning and disinfecting common surfaces, mainly) and offering to collect specimens from students and staff to determine the cause of illness,” health department spokeswoman Megan Hubartt said by email.

Schools are required to notify the Indiana Department of Education and their local health department when absenteeism reaches 20 percent.

At that time, the school completes a 20 percent absentee rate report, and the next best steps are discussed, education department spokesman Adam Baker said. He noted there is not a closure requirement.

“Schools close based on their own decision and those equipped to do so may even do e-learning on those days,” Baker said by email.

The closures at Queen of Angels affected such activities as a daddy-daughter dance and a robotics team competition, according to school announcements.

This is the second school affected by widespread illness in recent months. An elementary building in Southwest Allen County Schools briefly closed in December after a bout of viral gastroenteritis, commonly called a stomach bug, contributed to children staying home.

The health department provided tips to avoid further spread of illnesses common in the winter:

• Stay home when sick. Those experiencing fever and muscle aches should avoid school, work, shopping or other social gatherings until they are fever-free 24 hours without the benefit of fever-reducing medications.

• Wash hands with soap frequently.

• Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue. When tissues aren't available, cough or sneeze into your elbow or upper sleeve.

• Regularly disinfect common surfaces, such as door handles, tables and counters.

asloboda@jg.net