Following weekend cleaning, Ashe Co. schools reopen after flu outbreak

ASHE COUNTY, N.C. — Ashe County Schools are expected to reopen Monday after closing Friday because of a local increase in flu, strep, and stomach bug cases.

Superintendent Phyllis Yates said the school cleanings were completed throughout the weekend and she is confident in the process they took to handle the situation.


"All intense cleanings were completed over the weekend, so I plan to have school on a regular schedule barring any inclement weather. The flu virus only lives 24 hours so I feel good about about our process. We continue to encourage those who do not feel well to please stay home."

School officials said they spent the weekend vigorously scrubbing down everything after an outbreak of the flu, strep throat, and a stomach bug.

Friday morning, the district said cleaning crews started off at Ashe County Middle School, where they pressure washed the bathrooms.

Officials said Ashe County Middle School was one of the hardest hit, where 150 children were out sick.

"We probably had nine teachers and our technician and our asistant principal, that all tested positive. Some were on tamiflu already because of their children," Principal Dustin Farmer said.

A father also said he brought in an air purification system they were moving around the school.

The middle school principal told Channel 9 that he was feeling sick Friday and even went home after the interview.

Caldwell County Schools sent home some new sanitation backpack sprayers when they heard of the problems in Ashe County.

The backpack sprayers use a chloride disinfectant tablet. Maintenance Director Jerry Baker said his daughter was out sick earlier this week.

"I don't want to see any other children. This fever with my daughter was close to a 104 fever. She was feeling really poorly," Baker said.

Superintendent Phyllis Yates said 452 students were out sick from the system's five schools and early learning center. Another 38 students who came to school were sent home.

Yates also said 30 teachers are out sick and substitutes couldn't be found to replace them.

All local sports activities were canceled, but Yates added that Ashe County High School could play games outside the county if the host school wants them to come.

[RELATED: Charlotte-area hospitals restricting visitor access as flu cases grow]

“We’re trying to wipe our door knobs and our keyboards -- headphones -- two or three times a day just trying to keep things as clean as possible,” Principal Jennifer Holden said.

Dozens of children were also out sick at Westwood Elementary School.

The superintendent told Channel 9 it’s not just widespread cases of the flu, but also strep and a stomach bug impacting schools across the county.

[RELATED: Doctor: Peak flu season is upon us; those with symptoms should stay home]

Officials are asking children to wash their hands as soon as they arrive at school and again before they go to lunch.

One child even went to school wearing a mask for protection from the flu. His mother works in the lunchroom, where she and other employees cleaned tables and changed serving utensils when a new class arrived.

“Yes, he has a mask on,” his mother, Ruth Blair, said. “His sister was sick yesterday, and we were at the doctor, and he saw the mask and now he won’t take it off, but he’s not sick."

School leaders said the outbreak has not only impacted students. Two teachers have tested positive for the flu.

Gaston County said 500 students have gotten the flu over the last two weeks. 

The district told our partners at the Gazette they are seeing cases of a stomach bug and strep. 

Caromont Medical is restricting visitors under 13 to help stop the spread of flu. 

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