195 Marion County elementary students still out sick, officials say

Test results awaited in suspected norovirus outbreak at East Marion Elementary School

MARION COUNTY, Fla. – Marion County school officials say 195 students are still absent from school on Monday after some sort of illness kept hundreds of students home sick on Friday.

School officials said nearly 300 students were absent from East Marion Elementary on Friday, likely because of a norovirus outbreak.

The health department hasn't officially identified the type of virus, as school officials await test results, which could come back early this week.

Over the weekend, school workers disinfected everything at the school and deployed anti-virus equipment. School officials said they will continue to sanitize the school each night until the problem goes away.

On Monday, an additional 37 students went home early and it's not clear how many of the 195 students out sick on Monday were sick from Friday or became ill over the weekend. Seven staff members and three cafeteria workers are also absent.

"Most of my staff that have been sick have been sick no longer than 24 hours," said principal Rusty Corley, who added he had the illness over the weekend as well.

Corley said teachers have been providing hand sanitizer and frequently washing desks. The school is also bringing in lunches from outside rather than preparing food from inside the building.

"We have crews come out tomorrow to test our water, test our water pressure so students aren't putting their mouths on the faucets," Corley said. "All these little things that will hopefully eliminate the problem."

The total number of students absent on Friday was about 280 students, including 50 students who went home early, said spokesman Kevin Christian

As for Monday's total students absent, Christian said "the numbers are down, but they are still way too high."

School officials urge parents to remind kids to wash their hands regularly and to keep the children home if they show signs of being sick.

Local 6 spoke to one mother who said her son was vomiting for one night and showed no other symptoms.

"It worried me, that's why we kept him home Friday," said Nina Pieron, who said her first-grader son felt better over the weekend.

Watch Local 6 for more on this story.