School Closes in Dongola Because of Mysterious Rash

updated: 1/16/03

(Dongola, IL)--The transportation director of Dongola schools tells Heartland News the elementary school will dismiss early today at noon, and that the school will be closed until Monday. Inspectors are going to the school to check out recent health concerns.

A mysterious outbreak in the Dongola school district is raising a rash of questions, that so far, don't seem have any answers.

Concerned parents in the district began calling the KFVS newsroom on Tuesday, reporting that many children in the sixth grade class had come down with a red, blotchy rash and some other troubling symptoms. They say the rash broke out shortly after the students arrived at school on Monday, and that many of the kids were subsequently sent home. The mysterious illness also caused severe symptoms in at least one student. The parents of that sixth-grader tell Heartland News that their son broke out in welts from head to toe, and suffered an asthma attack that nearly cost him his life. That's scary enough in itself, but what has fear spreading even faster than the rash, is that no one knows what it is.

"It's enough to scare us!" declare Amy and Clifton Bennett, parents of another Dongola sixth-grader. When their son Christopher came home Monday with a rash of his own, they say they had no idea what to think. "I called the school and asked them what was going on and they wouldn't tell me anything," says Clifton. "we just want to know what it is," stresses Amy. "and what is the effect going to be on the kids?"

Heartland News spoke with Dongola superintendent Richard Reavis, who did confirm that at least half a dozen sixth-graders have come down with some sort of a mysterious rash. He says the district is working to find out what it is, or where it might have come from, and has even brought in the union county health department to try to find out. But so far, they haven't come up with any answers.

That's not good enough for the Bennetts. "We want to know if it's safe to send them back," says Clifton. "if it's not, they're not going back, no matter what." at least three other sets of parents tell Heartland News the same thing.

Dr. Reavis says the Illinois State Health Department will also be visiting the school on Friday to check for any environmental problems that could be causing the rash.