Middle schools added to cleaning effort after two staph diagnoses

EDUCATION NOTEBOOK

November 11, 2007|By JOHN-JOHN WILLIAM IV

The Howard County school system expanded its cleaning efforts to the weight rooms at 13 middle schools after two middle school students were diagnosed two weeks ago with a form of staph infection that is resistant to antibiotics.

Initially, school system maintenance workers sprayed disinfectants each night in the locker rooms and bathrooms at each of the 12 county high schools. The effort was extended to the middle schools after cases of the infection were discovered involving a student at Glenwood Middle School and another at Oakland Mills Middle.

Seven students in Howard County have been diagnosed with skin infections caused by methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, known as MRSA.

"We are taking directions based on the guidelines of the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention]," said system spokeswoman Patti Caplan.

Noting confidentiality, Caplan would not disclose the identity of the students. "I don't think that they are related," she said.

The two middle school students did not become infected by using the weight-room equipment at their schools, Caplan said.

"These students would not be using the equipment," she said.

Bottled water

The Baltimore school system announced last week that it would provide bottled water at all its schools from now on. The decision was made after water fountains at four schools failed lead testing.

Last year, Howard County passed out bottled water at the newly opened Dayton Oaks Elementary after there was a problem with the water.

"It does happen periodically," said spokeswoman Caplan. "If we do test and find that there is something wrong with the water, we will provide bottled water until we can resolve the problem."

Elevated lead levels have typically been the result of drinking fountains that are not used frequently, Caplan said.

"It doesn't happen frequently," she said. "It usually isn't for an extended period of time."

Board candidates

Allen Dyer is keeping his lips sealed for the moment about his intentions to seek a position on the county Board of Education next year.

Dyer, a computer consultant and lawyer, unsuccessfully ran for the school board last year.

"That's still an unknown," Dyer said from his Ellicott City home when reached by phone last week.

Dyer made one of the biggest election splashes when he aligned himself with fellow candidate Di Zou, 18, a freshman at the University of Maryland, College Park.

The pair wanted to bring back vocational education to local schools, provide more information technology training and support, establish a feeder school system and provide online access to information that is public under the Open Meetings Act, such as board minutes.

Dyer was complimentary of board Chairman Diane Mikulis, who announced recently that she would not seek re-election when her term expires next year.

"That was very considerate of her," Dyer said.

"That opens the field up a little bit," he added. "She did a decent job. She seemed like a very formidable opponent."

Current board member Janet Siddiqui is the only person who has filed candidacy papers.

Board member Ellen Flynn Giles has said that she intends to run for re-election.

Board candidates have until Dec. 3 to file. Seven candidates must file to force a Feb. 12 primary election. If a primary race is held, the top six finishers will advance to the general election Nov. 4 next year that will fill three seats on the board.

Out for surgery

School board member Patricia Gordon was absent from Thursday's meeting because she was recuperating from hip replacement surgery two weeks ago.

Gordon, who was recently elected president of the Maryland Association of Boards of Education, is expected to make a full recovery.

"I saw her today, and she is doing well," Mikulis said Thursday night.

Superintendent Sydney L. Cousin said he saw Gordon while she was in the middle of physical therapy, and he echoed Mikulis' assessment of Gordon's progress.

john-john.williams@baltsun.com

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