Elementary school in Gold River to reopen Thursday after two day closure

Elementary school in Gold River to reopen Thursday after two day closure
Vancouver Island West School District
Ray Watkins Elementary School has been closed for two days due to some students and staff experiencing itchiness, redness, and welts.

After being closed for two days due to five students and three staff experiencing itchiness, redness, and welts, the school plans to reopen on Thursday.

Ray Watkins Elementary School in Gold River was first closed on Jan. 17 because staff and students were experiencing itchiness, redness, and welts, according to the school’s website.

Lawrence Tarasoff, the superintendent of Vancouver Island West School District 84, says initially there were five students and three staff members from two classrooms showing symptoms.

“Today we’re closed for a thorough cleaning, all the surfaces, check the ventilation system, air the place out,” Tarasoff said. “Yesterday we had an environmental assessment company go in and do an environmental assessment for us, and so now we’re just waiting for the health experts to let us know what they found or what they recommend.”

Tarasoff says he does not know if any more students or staff started showing symptoms after the school was closed.

The classrooms as well as the whole school have been “thoroughly” aired out, according to the district.

“Island Health has given us the go ahead to reopen the school and have stated that there is no significant health risk to the students and staff of the school,” the district says on its website. “We thank you for your support and understanding as we took the time to ensure a safe environment for our students and staff.”

Parents were called to pick up the students and the school was closed for the remainder of the day to investigate the cause of the reactions.

The Gold River Health Clinic advised anyone at the school to shower or bathe, change into clean clothes and wash the clothes worn at the school on Jan. 17, and clean the surfaces in their bedrooms.

After returning home if someone were to start showing symptoms it was advised they shower and wear clean clothes and report to the clinic to be checked.

On Jan. 18, the school updated that though Island Health did not feel there was a significant risk, it was advised to close the school for a second day out of an abundance of caution while an investigation takes place to determine the cause.

In a statement to CHEK News, Island Health says the school district had reached out to the health authority to investigate what caused the students and staff to experience hives, runny eyes, and itchy symptoms.

“Island Health advised Ray Watkins Elementary to close for the day to allow for thorough cleaning and ventilation,” the statement says. “The school remains closed today while testing occurs to investigate what may have contributed to the symptoms. At this time, this remains a limited exposure event with no serious health impacts.”

The health authority says it continues to work with and support the school.

There are around 100 students who attend Ray Watkins Elementary School and there are 10.6 full-time equivalent teachers, as well as full-time and part-time support staff who work at the school.

Laura BroughamLaura Brougham

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