The Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District is suspending some extracurricular activities as a result of the ongoing virus outbreak.
District officials sent a letter to parents this week announcing the temporary suspension of optional group activities. The ban covers activities like dances or field trips but doesn’t extend to every afterschool activity.
SMMUSD Community & Public Relations Officer Gail Pinsker said some activities that occur outside traditional school hours will continue if they are in a classroom environment. For example, she said Santa Monica High School has a drama class at the end of the day that extends beyond the end of school hours and into an afterschool rehearsal. As the rehearsal is essentially the same as the class it precedes, that activity can continue.
“The idea is that the Department of Public Health would like to further help drive the numbers down as close to zero as possible and in class we have a controlled environment,” she said. “We’re taking protective measures such as cleaning and also, we have nurses on campus so when there’s a sick student they are able to send them home.”
She said activities where a health official doesn’t have the same kind of oversight are the kinds of activities that will be suspended but the district is working with LACDPH to establish a more specific set of guidelines.
“Leadership is speaking again to Department of Public Health for additional clarification on kinds of activities that should be canceled,” she said.
The district has been fighting the outbreak of a gastrointestinal virus since early February when a group of students returned from a field trip with symptoms similar to the Norovirus.
Norovirus is easily transmitted person to person and can spread through direct contact or through contaminated food. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about half of all foodborne illness in the U.S. can be attributed to Norovirus.
Pinsker said the number of potentially sick students has declined by about a third and while the numbers continue to drop, canceling optional activities will hopefully speed up eradication of the symptoms in the school population. She said the most recent figures, complied last week, showed about 110 students with possible symptoms. Pinsker said that was down from about 150 in the first few days of the outbreak. On any given day, the district has about 500 of its 11,000 students absent.
Parents who suspect their child has the illness should keep them away from others. Cleaning is an effective way to prevent the spread as is washing food before eating, cooking food properly, avoiding food preparation or care for others when sick, washing laundry and cleaning contaminated surfaces. The CDC recommends a chlorine bleach solution with 5-25 tablespoons of household bleach per gallon of water (or another disinfectant registered as effective against norovirus by the Environmental Protection Agency) for household cleaning.
Dear SMMUSD families,
As you are aware, we have had cases of gastrointestinal illness, possibly due to the norovirus, at our schools the past two weeks. We received an advisory from Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (LACDPH) prior to the weekend advising us that, in an abundance of caution, we should discontinue all optional group activities such as dances, field trips, camp trips and music rehearsals at all our schools. We will be notified by LACDPH when to resume, based on a greatly reduced number of illnesses on our campuses. We will alert you when all activities are resumed.
This highly contagious illness does linger on a bit and we are working hard at our school sites to minimize exposure on campus. We appreciate your ongoing efforts at home to follow recommendations for hand washing and staying home for 48 hours after this illness, that we provided to you previously.
This is not a reflection of worsening conditions. Rather, we see the light at the end of the tunnel and would like to get back to normalcy, post virus.
School is in session, however, reduced contact between kids at optional activities will help further reduce the spread of this illness, according to DPH.
Our top priority is the health and safety of all students and we will continue to keep you informed of this situation. If you need additional information please contact our District Coordinating Nurse, Lora Morn @ 310-450-8338 ext. 70218, or our Director of Student Services, Tara Brown @310-450-8338 ext. 70217.
Community & Public Relations Department
Superintendent’s Office, SMMUSD