Thirty students were sent home from Pickens Middle School Thursday following head lice inspections.
Speaking during a break in the monthly school board meeting last night, Principal Chris LeMieux said the school checked all students in grades 6 and 7, using the school nurse and others to assist, and that they were planning to continue the inspection in 8th grade today.
Students who were found to have lice or nits were sent home with directions from the nurse and then asked to return on Friday for a re-inspection.
The lice problem affected students in all grades and classes.
Although there have been lice problems at campuses before, PCMS faculty said they had never seen it this widespread among the student population.
“These critters don’t discriminate,” the principal said.
LeMieux said there had been problems at the first of school years in the past, but previously the outbreaks were restricted to only some classes.
LeMieux speculated that this year the problem was more widespread due to the number of kids attending summer camps. He said the outbreak could have started at one of the summer events and is now spreading with students back in the classroom
Attendance Officer Shelley Cantrell, also speaking during the break, said at this point, the overall situation at Pickens Middle, and to some extent at Tate Elementary, isn’t affecting attendance rates, but she is keeping a close eye on all the cases.
She said if the lice got a good head start on some student heads and infested their homes as well it can be difficult to eliminate them. Cantrell said the supplies for a full home treatment are fairly expensive. As attendance officer, she will provide supplies for families that can’t afford them and will even make home visits to offer input on eliminating the lice.
“It can be a real ordeal for families,” she said. “You can’t just treat the kid, you have to treat the whole family.”
She said families have to do more than wash the students’ hair. Sprays for furniture, washing all bedding and other precautions must be followed.
The letter noted, “Lice outbreaks are very common among school children. Head lice do not carry any disease, and their presence does not indicate a lack of cleanliness.”
LeMieux said the only real health concern is that they are irritating by the itching and “there are hurt feelings” among students found to have lice.
The principal said they used a microscope in the nurse’s office to show skeptical parents the lice from students’ hair.
Cantrell said if they clear the problem up with no new cases for 21 days, then they would likely have eliminated the problem from the campus.