Head lice infestation at Aldergrove elementary school

Outbreak at Shortreed Elementary has spread to almost every classroom. While irritating, lice are not a health concern, district says

While many elementary schools have an outbreak of head lice from time to time, an infestation at Shortreed Elementary school seems to be exceptionally long-lived and widespread.

“We have been getting letters home about lice since October,” said Crystal Garlay, a frustrated Shortreed parent.

The outbreak has spread to almost every class in the school, she said.

Garlay was shocked to learn that children with lice are allowed to continue to attend school.

“We’ve had no health nurse in to address this.

“A lot of parents are frustrated,” said Garlay.

While lice can be itchy and unpleasant, they aren’t considered a health concern, said Langley School District spokesperson Ken Hoff.

The district’s policy is being reviewed but currently, “the guidelines follow the lead of Fraser Health in that a lice outbreak is not considered a ‘major public health concern’ as no disease is being spread, but is considered a ‘community concern’ due to its nuisance and discomfort,” said Hoff.

“As such, students are not sent home or told to stay home, though the decision to keep a child home for treatment is always an option for parents at their discretion.”

The district acknowledged that the outbreak at Shortreed is larger than usual, but said outbreaks are common in any school.

“I can’t send my daughter to school with a hazard suit on and I’ve offered to bring shower caps for all the kids to wear, but I’m not allowed,”said Garlay.

She wishes parents with kids who have lice would keep them home until they are clear so the outbreak can be stopped.

So far, her daughter hasn’t had lice.

The most recent letter sent home to parents on Jan. 27, said the outbreak is larger than usual.

It asks parents to not buy lice shampoo, which the letter said can be ‘toxic.’

Rather, it advises parents to use a proper lice comb and thick, white hair conditioner.

The conditioner should be applied to the hair every evening or morning and combed out in sections.

“If you miss just one adult louse, it is capable of laying hundreds of eggs,” said the letter.

There is a misconception that a head lice outbreak is a result of unwashed, dirty hair.

In fact, lice thrive in clean hair.

Fraserhealth.ca offers extensive information about the treatment of lice on its website.