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A popular annual retreat for Milaca sixth-graders was cut short due to a stomach virus outbreak earlier this week.

School officials and staff at Deep Portage Learning Center made the decision to send the Milaca group home a day early when more than 20 students reported various stomach-related symptoms.

“Apparently, the stomach bug was going around in those quarters,” Milaca Superintendent of Schools Tim Truebenbach said. “We had a nurse up there and our staff as well. In working with the Deep Portage staff, they felt it was best to cut the trip short a day and get the kids home, get their clothes washed and all of that to help prevent the spreading of the virus.”

Each year, the entire sixth-grade class along with teachers and paraprofessionals take a week-long trip to Deep Portage, which is a non-profit residential and environmental education/outdoor recreation center located near Hackensack.

The district has been taking the trip for about 15 years, and sending students home early due to illness isn’t uncommon, Truebenbach said.

But the number of students affected this time led to the decision to send them home. Officials also followed up with the Minnesota Department of Health to make sure students and staff would do whatever possible to prevent the virus from spreading.

Buses arrived back in Milaca about 3 p.m. on Thursday, where kids were served lunch before heading home.

Due to the adjusted calendar because of the retreat, sixth-graders did not have regular classes on Friday, and also don’t have school on Monday. These off days are part of the regular school calendar.

“It as more precautionary than anything, and it’s now a matter of monitoring those bugs now,” Truebenbach said. “It really is a great event for the kids. They and the staff really love it.”

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