CORVALLIS – It’s been a week since the Ravalli County Public Health Department ordered all nonimmunized students in the Corvallis and Victor school districts, more than 115 kids in all, to stay home for three weeks to prevent the spread of a whooping cough outbreak.

Jason Wirt, principal at Corvallis High School, said that he fully supports the county’s decision but the situation has been a logistical headache for his staff.

“We’re doing everything we can to make sure none of these kids fall behind in their work,” he said. “But it’s been tough on everybody. The teachers are all working extra hours preparing the packets for the kids every week, along with their regular duties. We’re dealing with it the best we can.”

Wirt said a big dilemma is that by the time the kids return from their 21 days at home, there won’t be much time left before school is out for the summer.

“Even after spring break, which is only a week, it takes kids time to get fully focused again,” he said. “So after a three-week break, when there is only going to be three more weeks of school left, it’s going to be tough to get the kids up to speed before graduation.”

Corvallis School District superintendent Monte Silk said the three confirmed cases in his district are all in the primary school, so he is still holding out hope that he can convince the county to let students come back to the middle school and high school sooner.

“I’ve been talking to some people to see if they can take another look at it,” he said. “But I really don’t expect changes. We’ll probably just have to ride out the storm.”

Silk said many of the nonimmunized student-athletes on the track team have been practicing separately from the rest of the team.

“We are the defending girls’ State A champions,” Silk said. “We’ve got a shot at another title, so the kids need to keep practicing. They are practicing at a different time, with the health department’s permission.”

The whooping cough (officially known as pertussis) outbreak began when 10 students at the Pines Academy in Pinesdale came down with it three weeks ago. The highly contagious disease has since been found in 17 more people, including three at the Ravalli Head Start in Hamilton, although health officials have not yet banned nonimmunized students from attending class in the Hamilton School District.

For more information call the Ravalli County Public Health Department at 375-6670.

Reporter David Erickson can be reached at 363-3300 or at david.erickson@ravallirepublic.com.

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