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Pesticide traps cause of Gold River elementary school rash — Island Health

Students reported hives, itchiness and runny eyes, prompting closure of school
Ray Watkins Elementary School in Gold River has been closed for two days after some staff and students reported itchiness, redness and welts. Photo courtesy Vancouver Island West School District

The Gold River elementary school that had been closed for two days after some students and teachers came down with a rash has re-opened.

Students were back in class on Thursday after the school was closed for two days. On Tuesday, Jan. 17, five students and three staff reported hives, runny eyes and itchy symptoms. The school district and Island Health decided to close the school for thorough cleaning and ventilation, and the school remained closed on Wednesday for testing.

Island Health said Thursday that there was “no significant health risk to the students and staff of Ray Watkins elementary,” and that “this remains a limited exposure event with no serious health impacts.”

On Thursday afternoon, the school district posted a statement from Island Health identifying the source of the rashes.

“Multiple pesticide traps (roach bait gels) were placed throughout the impacted classroom on Thursday Jan. 12., just before the long weekend as Friday was a non-instructional day, with the intent to prevent pest infestation,” the note says. “Vapours from the pesticide in these traps were the most likely source that caused some students and staff to experience symptoms.”

“No students or staff had direct contact with the pesticide but it acted as an irritant to them,” it says. “With the pesticide removed, all classrooms cleaned and ventilated, the risk of further exposure is eliminated. Students and staff’s symptoms from brief exposure in the classroom will resolve on their own and without long-term effects.”

School District 84 superintendent Lawrence Tarasoff said Wednesday that “we’ve done a thorough cleaning, made sure all the ventilation’s working and that’s where we’re at right now.”

On Thursday morning, the school district posted online that Island Health had given the go ahead to reopen the school.

“The symptoms that a few students experienced were limited to two classrooms in the intermediate wing,” the notice said. “Those two classrooms, along with the rest of the school, have been thoroughly cleaned and aired out.”

Just over 100 students attend Ray Watkins elementary school, which employs 10.6 full-time equivalent teaching staff and a variety of full and part-time support staff.

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Marc Kitteringham

About the Author: Marc Kitteringham

I joined Campbell River Mirror in early 2020, writing about the environment, housing, local government and more.
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