VALLEY HEAD, Ala. -- Roughly a quarter of the kids at Valley Head School in DeKalb County were out Wednesday because of a high rate of illness.
"Yesterday we had about 100 absences that then moved as the day went on. It grew to over 150 absences,"said DeKalb County Schools Assistant Superintendent Brian Thomas. Valley Head School has more than 450 students. Some teachers and staff were out too, but students made up the bulk.
School officials say the sickness started gradually and initially, it was nothing out of the ordinary for this time of year. Then on Wednesday, absences spiked. School officials say symptoms vary from student to student, but some include vomiting and headache. Some grades were hit more than others.
"We're working right now with local medical professionals and the Alabama Department of Public Health just to try to make sure we know exactly what it is that we have," Thomas explained.
He continued to say health officials were initially concerned about the sickness being infectious or foodborne. He said now they're leaning toward infectious.
Thomas said they're in contact with health officials to make sure they're doing all they can do to stop the sickness from spreading in the school. "We feel pretty comfortable about what we've done so far," Thomas said. "We've also asked the school to make sure we're cleaning things properly, students are washing their hands."
One parent, who didn't want to use her name, kept her son out Thursday. "I'm just hoping they do something to alleviate this; disinfect the school, something, because these kids just don't need this right now. They just started school," she said.
Fall Break starts on Monday. Staff will double down disinfecting efforts while the kids are out on break. Thomas said if there are any changes between now and the end of the day Friday system leaders will notify parents.
Absences at Valley Head School will be excused for the rest of the week.
Valley Head School says all absences will be excused Thursday, October 4 and Friday, October 5.