About 70 students from Beartooth Elementary called in sick Thursday and another two dozen left school complaining of stomach pains, officials at RiverStone Health and Billings School District 2 said.
Officials don’t yet know what is making the students sick, said Barbara Schneeman, director of communication and advocacy for RiverStone.
Symptoms include nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
Superintendent Keith Beeman got a call from the school Thursday morning informing him that a higher-than-usual number of students had called in sick — 70 compared to the average 40.
Once school started, he said, “students started coming down to the office.”
Some had vomited, some were feverish, he said. They were cared for at the office and then sent home with parents.
At that point, Beeman visited the school and assigned extra custodians to disinfect nearly every surface. The district also notified RiverStone Health.
In all, the school sent home between 20 and 22 students by 1 p.m., the time Beeman left Beartooth.
RiverStone sent to the school an environmental health sanitarian to check out the situation and then sent out a “health alert” message, which goes to doctors’ offices, medical centers and day care centers, Schneeman said.
The message advised recipients of what had happened at Beartooth, listed the symptoms and asked people to collect stool samples to help identify the illness, she said.
Beeman praised the efforts of staff at the school for quickly and efficiently handling the situation.
“They were all outstanding,” he said.
Beartooth staff sent home a letter to parents at the end of school, advising them of what happened and asking parents to keep home students who are sick.
RiverStone echoed the statement.
“We want to make sure people who are ill stay home,” Schneeman said.
For those who aren’t, “wash your hands. That’s the best advice,” she said.
And with that, it’s business as usual, Beeman said. School is still on for Friday.