GRAND COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4)– The West Grand School District in Grand County closed schools early on Thursday, ahead of the planned Thanksgiving break. The school district has experienced massive illnesses this week.

(credit: CBS)

The sharp rise in student and staff health issues seem to center around gastrointestinal or upper respiratory issues. That has resulted in a high absentee rate at the schools. School officials have not specifically named norovirus as Mesa County has.

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The closure happened just one day after all schools in Mesa County School District 51 closed due to widespread illness.

(credit: CBS)

The school district says having so many students and staff out sick has impacted the learning environment and the best course of action is to close schools.

“Even our nurse went home sick at the end of the day on Wednesday when we are starting to see more and more similar symptoms,” said West Grand School District Superintendent Darrin Peppard.

Darrin Peppard

Darrin Peppard (credit: CBS)

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West Grand School District schools will be closed beginning on Friday and Nov. 25 and 26 in addition to the regularly scheduled Thanksgiving break days. All school activities are cancelled during that time.

(credit: CBS)

“Once we start to have that many kids out and that many adults out it’s not necessarily quite a quality education that we are putting out and we’re really just focusing on time that’s not what we’re looking for,” said Peppard. “We appreciate that our parents are understanding we know they value the health of their kids.”

Darrin Peppard

CBS4’s Matt Kroschel interviews Darrin Peppard (credit: CBS)

School district administrators hope that during the extended break, all students and staff can fully recover.

The maintenance and custodial staff will sanitize and deep clean all surfaces in the schools in the district.

Palisade High School closed early Thursday after hundreds of students and staff reported feeling ill.

Palisade High School closed early Thursday after hundreds of students and staff reported feeling ill. (credit: CBS)

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All students in the Mesa County Valley School District 51 will not have school until after Thanksgiving break due to widespread illness. Grand Mesa Middle School and Mt. Garfield Middle School will remain shut down until Dec. 3. Palisade High School was closed for a time last week due to what officials believe was norovirus.