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"More illnesses than I have ever seen": Philadelphia school, day camp program says stomach bug is making rounds

How the stomach bug norovirus is impacting schools across Philadelphia
How the stomach bug norovirus is impacting schools across Philadelphia 03:06

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- At any given week at Ko12 Kids School, they serve around 150 children, between early elementary (Kindergarten through second grade) school and educational day camp and after-school programs for kids both older and younger. However, as of late, the founder and CEO, Sharon Hershman, said fewer students have been coming through the doors.

"We have kids and/or teachers out every single week recently, for at least the last few months," Hershman said. "I've been in this business for 16 years and we have had more illnesses in general this year than I have ever, ever seen. It's spreading faster, it's rolling through our school as well as other schools, so I know it's in all of those schools."

Hershman said between coronavirus, influenza, and more recently, norovirus, students and staff have stayed home. Because their day camp and after-school programs are pay-per-day, Hershman said her small business has been taking a hit.

"Business-wise, of course, it's difficult because we've had so many kids out sick," Hershman said. "And we want to recoup them that money for the day that we're giving back. We're doing it because it's the right thing to do and it's healthier and it's better for our families."

Despite the minor bump in the road, Hershman is determined to keep providing what she describes as "small, safe and supportive classes." She founded the center in 2007 after experiencing challenges finding a preschool that would suit her son's needs. With a guiding principle of inclusion, she hopes to continue welcoming students of all abilities and from all backgrounds. She knows the first way to do that is to keep kids healthy.

"As soon as the kids come in from home, they come here, they put their things away, and they wash their hands as soon as they get here," Hershman said.

During the pandemic, Ko12 Kids School remained open, and much like the rest of the world, they kept up practices that prevented people from getting sick. Right when you walk through the front door, there are COVID tests and masks on a desk that are free to take.

Having survived the pandemic and well into the 2023-2024 school year, Hershman plans to offer third grade at the school next year.

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