The Nassau County Department of Health is investigating a stomach virus that is affecting hundreds of students at Barnum Woods Elementary School.
“At this point it seems to be a noro-like virus,” said DOH spokesperson Mary Ellen Laurain. She said the virus is a very contagious gastrointestinal illness that spreads by direct contact.
No other locations in the East Meadow Union Free School District or nearby communities are under investigation, but Laurain said, “We’ve seen this before [and] we’re very interested in making sure that no further virus is spread and that students who are ill go home.”
During the investigation, DOH employees will check that school personnel are properly handling food and will speak with the school nurse to ensure sick students are immediately sent home.
Parents of students who attend Barnum Woods were voicing their complaints about school administration on Facebook throughout the day. While many parents agreed that viruses spread quickly and do not blame the school for what the DOH declared an “outbreak,” they were frustrated by the lack of communication.
Parents said that anywhere from one to three hundred students were absent on Thursday and Friday and they did not receive information from the school until Principal Gregory Bottari distributed an automated phone message on Friday afternoon.
“He was basically informing us the virus had struck Barnum,” said a parent who asked to remain unnamed. “He said the custodians had done a deep cleaning . . . for the second time this week and that they will continue with that for the next month or two . . . That message should have gone out last night or a letter should have been sent home with the kids yesterday.”
Todd Weinstein, who kept his two Barnum Woods kids home on Friday to ensure they did not get sick, agreed and added, “Many people kept their kids home just for precaution.”
“When I called this morning to leave a message for the nurse I couldn’t because the mailbox was full,” said Karla Oderwald, whose son was home sick with a fever. “Then I tried to call at eight when they opened to speak to someone and it took me 45 minutes to get through.”
“I am concerned that there was no communication from the school or district,” added Michael Inger.
East Meadow Union Free School District administration did not respond to requests for comments and Bottari notified Barnum Woods employees not to speak with media.
The East Meadow Herald will update this story as information becomes available.