Carver Elementary School has been ordered to close for multiple days starting Friday, weeks after officials began detecting an increase in norovirus among students and staff. 

The decision to close the school through Tuesday, March 21, is the latest in a series of measures taken by officials to prevent further infection. The closure requirement comes from the Long Beach Health Department, according to Long Beach Unified School District spokesperson Chris Eftychiou, after more than 130 cases of the norovirus were found among students and staff since Feb. 22.

The source of the outbreak is still not immediately clear, although Eftychiou said Wednesday that cases appeared to be declining.

“Health officials have determined that this length of closure is the most effective way to stop the further spread of this common virus,” a statement from the LBUSD said. “A health screening process will be implemented by staff as students return to school on Wednesday morning.”

Jennifer Rice Epstein, a spokesperson for the Health Department, said the decision was made to close the school because there’s evidence that the norovirus was still spreading despite “stringent control measures.”

“Closing the school to conduct a deep cleaning is an outbreak management strategy,” Epstein said. “Each communicable disease outbreak is unique, so what action to take is decided by the City Health Officer on a case-by-case basis.”

Parents were first made aware of the outbreak after Monica Manipon, the principal at Carver Elementary School, sent a memo out to parents on March 1, explaining that the school was working with the city’s Health Department after a number of students and staff reported being sick with the norovirus, which has similar symptoms to the stomach flu.

By the following week, another letter from Manipon revealed the elementary school was experiencing a high number of absences as a result of the outbreak.

Since then, school officials have canceled or postponed all group events, including field trips, closed down playground equipment and prevented students from mingling during their breaks.

“We know that a sudden school closure creates challenges, and we apologize for the impact upon our families,” a statement from the LBUSD said. “Your child’s health and the safety of our educational environment is of the utmost importance to us.”

But Lori Shepler, a parent of two children at Carver Elementary, said she’s concerned the school wasn’t closed earlier, when cases were up.

“It’s just a little puzzling,” Shepler said. “It should’ve been done a couple of weeks ago.”

Shepler said she first noticed signs of the outbreak on Feb. 28, when she was informed that her son’s classmate had gone home with symptoms. Her concern grew after receiving the school’s memo the following day, informing parents about the possible outbreak.

Within two days, her daughter started exhibiting symptoms.

“She threw up 11 times,” Shepler said, adding that the illness put her daughter, who is a cancer survivor, at risk of dehydration because she only has one kidney.

The norovirus causes symptoms of vomiting and diarrhea within 24 to 48 after being exposed to the virus.

People can become infected with norovirus in a number of ways, but it is typically by eating contaminated food, drinking contaminated liquids, touching contaminated surfaces or having direct contact with someone else who is showing symptoms.

Classes will not be held online during the school closure, however, school officials say teachers may assign work to be completed at home.

School officials continue to ask any student or staff experiencing any symptoms of gastrointestinal illness when school reopens on Wednesday to stay home until showing no symptoms for at least 48 hours.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with information from Lori Shepler and the Health Department. It has also been updated to correct the relationship between norovirus and the stomach flu.

Health officials investigate norovirus outbreak at Carver Elementary School