Students Sickened At Marin County Educational Ranch

PETALUMA (BCN) – Approximately 50 Bay Area students and adults on a five-day educational trip in western Marin County became ill Wednesday night and were sent home, a fire dispatcher said.

The affected students and teachers were part of a larger group staying at the Walker Creek Ranch, which is a campus of the Marin County Office of Education.

The dispatcher said a fire engine was sent to the scene on a report of a sick person with flu-like symptoms at about 10 p.m. and found roughly 50 students in a weakened condition.

None of the sickened students were transported for medical treatment, the dispatcher said, but instead, the ill students were released at the scene and taken home by family members or guardians.

The ranch, which is located at 1700 Marshall-Petaluma Road in unincorporated Marin County near Petaluma, is comprised of an outdoor school, conference center, and summer camp, according to the facility’s website.

Outdoor school principal Mike Grant said that students from three Bay Area schools had been staying on the campus this week and that the illness seemed to spread equally among the schools.

Grant estimated that 52 or 53 people were afflicted with flu-like symptoms, including vomiting and diarrhea, and that the number of ill included mostly students, but also a few teachers and accompanying high school students.

The ranch, which has been in operation since 1963, hosts fifth and sixth grade students, Grant said, with 200 students on average visiting the site every week for its 5-day residential science school.

The trouble began early this afternoon, Grant said, when “there were a few kids who were sick to their stomach.”

From 2 p.m. until 10 p.m., that number swelled, and Grant said that with the input of Marin County health officials some healthy students were sent home as well.

“We decided that we had to get them home and get the bug out of the environment here,” Grant said.

The students were visiting from San Ramon Elementary School in Novato; Tassajara Hills Elementary School in Danville; and Redwood Day School in Oakland.

The source of the illness had not been pinpointed, Grant said, although it seemed to originate from one cabin. “We’re assuming it’s something viral that hit pretty hard and quick.”

Some students were still on their way home as late as 3 a.m.

“It seems to be winding down, but it’s been a pretty big afternoon and evening here,” Grant said.

(© 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Bay City News contributed to this report.)

  • J R

    I am not surprised as my daughter went to Walker Creek 3 years ago in the 5th grade. I went out with them the 1st morning and was there when the students who forgot to bring their own water bottle (which they need for the whole week) would have to SHARE with other students. WHAT!! I thought that so disgusting, wrong, unhealthy that my husband and I bought two cases of bottled water and brought them out the next morning. Later I was told by my daughter’s friend who was also there that they did not pass out any of the water to the students. This is not the way or time to drive home any lesson of responsibility to the students by passing around water bottles for a whole week! Looking back, I should have notified the health department.

  • 49r

    Does not surprise me. I was at Walker Creek in January with my child’s 5th grade class. One of the kids in my cabin did eat dinner, two night s in a row. On the second evening, he requested a little ketchup so he could eat his dinner. The head cook refused to provide the ketchup to the hopper or to a parent cabin leader. The cook insisted that the child walk into the kitchen and explain why he needed the ketchup. The child became upset and did not eat dinner for the second night. The next morning, he was feeling I’ll and was taken to the teacher’s cabin for medical assistance. I complained to the teachers about the cabin cook. Later in the day, the cook came over to explain his actions. He also stated that he was not worried about his job because he is in the union. The bathroom facilities in the shower room were absolutely dirty and disgusting. I think they have forgotten who their customers are. The teachers and naturalists are awesome. Unfortunately, there are a few staff members that need to go.

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