Following Staph Outbreak Westside Students Return to Class

October 23, 2006--Posted at 1:45 p.m. CDT

JONESBORO, AR--After spending 40 hours over the weekend cleaning every surface possible following a staph outbreak which forced a temporary shutdown last week, officials in the Westside School District welcomed students back to the classrooms Monday.

Monday started as just another school day for students in the Westside School District. However, because of a staph outbreak, Monday things were different.

One of the misconceptions with the staph outbreak is that Westside is a dirty school. One parent we talked to said her daughter competed in a volleyball tournament over the weekend in which a number of opposing players would not shake the Westside players' hands. She went on to say she worked at a doctor's office and has seen just as many Staph cases at other schools as she had seen at Westside.

"I want people to know this is a bacteria that is everywhere in our environment and it is not confined to here. We're still not sure even if the bacteria was ever here or if the kids contracted the bacteria from here," said Dr. James Best, Superintendent Westside Schools.

With Westside being in the business of education they feel education is the best way to combat these misconceptions.

"The only major thing we are going to do is come do an education piece on this. We are explaining to the kids why they need to wash their hands and use the hand sanitizers and what staph is and why it needs attention," said Best.

In addition to hand washing, teachers are making the effort to wipe door knobs and commonly touched places in between classes. The teachers at the school believe these new practices will not only decrease staph infections, but other common illnesses.

"I believe this might cut down as well on medical costs and student absents. It can be turned into a good thing," said music teacher Lori Dulaney.

Over the weekend the principal at Westside Middle School visited the student hospitalized with staph infection in Little Rock. He said the student was improving but still in stable condition.