After Closing With Hundreds Of Students Sick, Palisade High School Hopes To Reopen Monday

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
The Book Cliffs rise behind orchards in Palisade.

Update, Nov. 18, 2019: Palisade High School reopened on Monday morning.

District officials are hoping to reopen Palisade High School Monday, after the school was closed Thursday and Friday by an unknown ailment that prompted hundreds of students and staff to call in sick.

Officials estimate that 300 of the school’s 1,050 students didn’t show up for classes Thursday, along with 20 percent of staff. The campus was closed at 10:30 a.m.

The school is currently undergoing a deep clean due to what the Mesa County Health Dept. is calling “an infectious disease,” likely a virus, whose main symptom is vomiting, typically for 12 to 24 hours. 

“Right now, we don’t know exactly what it is,” the agency’s Amanda Mayle said. 

Senior Liliana Flanigan, 16, described watching the illness ripple through a school rehearsal for “The Music Man” Wednesday. 

After feeling fine one moment, she said, one boy “got into the fetal position on the floor and was just vomiting into a trashcan off the stage,” Flanigan said, adding that his dancing partner had the same symptoms shortly after. 

As the show’s choreographer, Flanigan was in close proximity all the actors that night. 

“I was very concerned because it, you know, hit everybody who was seemingly perfectly healthy,” she said. “I had no idea if was going to hit me.” 

So far, however, Flanigan has been spared. 

“I’m still concerned that there's residual virus on me somewhere and I might catch it, so I’m still a little bit anxious about it,” she said. “But for the most part, I’m very relieved. 

The health department is bracing for the possibility of more instances of the illness throughout the county in the coming days.

The last time a school in the area was closed due to sickness was 2014, when a fast-spreading stomach virus closed Tope Elementary School in Grand Junction.