Raleigh Mom says schools need to clean lunch tables better as flu spreads

(CBS North Carolina)

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – With widespread flu activity, a mother in Raleigh is urging Wake County school leaders to rethink their policy when it comes to cleaning tables in the cafeterias.

“In my mind, everything that they’re doing in the classroom during the day is completely out the window when the kids go eat,” said Kira Kroboth, who has two sons who attend Partnership Magnet Elementary. “They’re literally putting things in their mouths at a table that has not been cleaned.”

As classes are cycling through during lunch, tables are wiped down with water.

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“I had no idea that this was the policy. It was shocking to me when I found out this is the way things are handled,” she said.

Kroboth started researching the issue because one of her sons has a peanut allergy. She worked to make it so that his spot at lunch is more thoroughly cleaned. Now, she’s started an online petition calling for broader changes in light of the widespread flu activity this season. Click here to view the petition.

Kroboth received emails from her children’s teachers Monday alerting her that students had become sick with the flu.

“We use best practices to make sure that our cafeteria facilities are clean and safe for students,” said WCPSS spokeswoman Lisa Luten. “Because of the quick turnaround of our tables, we try to avoid using chemicals on those tables, which students might be in contact with and might irritate them.”

Luten explained that tables are cleaned twice daily with a surface sanitizer after breakfast and after all students have finished lunch.

“We want to make sure that there are not chemicals on that table that students are eating on that might cause irritation or might be dangerous,” Luten said. “The best thing we can do to prevent the spread of flu in our schools, is to make sure that children that are sick are not in the classroom.”

Kroboth plans to take her petition to the school board.

“I don’t know what the answer is, but would like to see them try to find an answer, not just throw out that this is our policy and so be it,” she said. “Something has to be done.”

WCPSS sent the following email to CBS North Carolina about the cleaning policy:

Our practices consider the safety of all students with medical conditions and allergies including, but not limited to food and environmental.

The rapid turn-around of students in our cafeterias during lunch sessions does not allow for the safe use of chemicals for all children. WCPSS Child Nutrition Services uses a surface sanitizer on tables after breakfast session and after the final lunch session. Both of which take place when no students are present.

During lunch sessions, tables are wiped down with water between classes.

Student health practices consider the safety of all students. Food allergy practices are driven by WCPSS Food Allergy Guidelines and are based on scientific literature and consultations provided by area medical practices including UNC and Duke.

The best way to prevent the spread of the flu is for parents to not send children with flu-like symptoms to school. We’re also urging students and staff to wash their hands frequently and thoroughly at school.

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