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Over 100 Madras children fall ill, worrying parents

By Katie Higgins
Published On: Apr 10 2014 08:25:02 PM CDT
Updated On: Apr 11 2014 06:38:24 PM CDT

NewsChannel 21's Katie Higgins went to Madras to see why so many kids were absent from school.

MADRAS, Ore. -

Many Jefferson County parents are worried that more than 100 children who fell ill this week could have something to do with an herbicide spray warning sign by a soccer field.

The sign showed up one day before the wave of illness, which included vomiting by many,

But as it turned out, the spraying didn't occur until Thursday, well after the illnesses arose.

So many parents were concerned that Jefferson County School District 509-J sent a letter home. The letter from Superintendent Rick Molitor claims the illness was due to the stomach flu.

The superintendent told NewsChannel 21 that the field wasn't even sprayed until Thursday morning and the kids played soccer on the field on Tuesday night.

Molitor said the mass number of kids absent from school on Wednesday "raised huge flags." But the school affected by the large number of absentees was Madras Primary -- and the spraying occurred at Buff Elementary.

The reason parents were concerned though is because after-school programs at both schools use the field.

But in comments on NewsChannel 21's Facebook page, some parents said their children didn't play soccer and got sick -- and others who did play felt fine.

The district called Jefferson County Public Health to investigate. They deemed the cause was the flu. They gave reasons for their determination, including flu-like symptoms in the community for the past couple weeks, the age of primary students, and students' recent return from spring break.

There are state rules and regulations when it comes to using herbicides and pesticides on school grounds. The first step is that the district must warn parents, coaches, teachers and children on their school's website.

"Parents and students and coaches would have been notified by the signage on the field," Molitor said.

That's the second step. Molitor said that 24 hours before any spraying can occur, a sign must be put up near the field. The sign, about the size of a piece of computer paper, was located to the right of the field of entrance on the fence.

The sign read "A pesticide application is scheduled/was performed on: 04/08-11. This means that the spraying could have occurred anytime between the morning of the 9th or 10th.

Molitor said it rained on Wednesday, so it was rescheduled for Thursday morning instead.

One mother and soccer organizer said she didn't see the sign at all and that she wasn't warned by the school district of the potential spraying.

The Jefferson County Junior Soccer Association had around 300 kids playing on the field Tuesday night.

The Oregon Department of Agriculture called NewsChannel 21 after seeing our posts and is conducting their own investigation into the matter.

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