Illness prompts day off for students in New Waverly

February 25, 2011 5:26:44 PM PST
A fast spreading illness in a local school has lead to the closure of the entire school district. New Waverly ISD shut down its elementary, intermediate, junior high and high school Friday because of a mysterious bug that's going around. Every bit of New Waverly Junior High is getting wiped clean after 45 of the 185 students here were home sick on Thursday from what the district is calling a stomach bug. The campus is closed as are the elementary and high schools.

"It's precautionary. It's to take care of kids and that's what our intention is," New Waverly ISD Superintendent Dr. Clay Webb said. "We will be open as normal (Monday)."

But Norma Avila isn't so sure she'll be sending her daughter back just yet. She can't afford for her children to get sick.

She said, "Right now my kids don't have any insurance. So I would have taken them to the doctor, I would have to pay cash."

As a precaution the district says it called the state health department to take water samples and to check the campus. A doctor with the health department tells me they have no evidence to suggest anything other than a random illness. But they did test the water at the school and are awaiting results.

Of course some students are glad for the unexpected break.

"I was kind of excited," said New Waverly High School student Sara Bartee. "It's Friday -- early weekend."

For its part, the district wants to assure parents it is doing what it can to keep children well.

"We don't want to see the kids sick and just want to ensure them that we're doing everything we can to make it a healthy environment," Dr. Webb said. "We don't have any kind of water problems. We don't have any sewer leaks. We don't have anything like that that would indicate a problem with the facility."

But not all parents are buying it.

Parent Krissi Trantham said, "As a parent we want to know what's going on." Trantham says she thinks there is something wrong with the campus.

She said, "In the junior high is where most of kids are out at, so why is it located to that one school when we're a small community and we're in all these small stores all the time with each other?"

We talked to several other residents and parents off camera who believe the same thing -- that a random illness is not to blame.

Resident Sharon Gray believes the problem is the water, even though the district says that's it's not

"Right. I sure do. The sewer backed up in it," she said.

Grandmother Sue Roy said, "The sanitation down there at the junior high school, where most of the students are out sick, is probably the worst for sanitation."

The health department tells us that for now it sees no evidence of contaminated water or other issues at the school, but it is testing the water and those results will be back Monday -- even if parents like Trantham aren't so sure their students will be.

The district will be open for classes on Monday and the state health department tests are expected back Monday as well. Some parents say they may not send their children back to the junior high school until they know for sure the campus is safe.

The other schools were closed, despite good attendance, because of bus routes and the inconvenience it would have caused if they kept those campuses open.