2009-11-01 / Health

Flu bug strikes area schools

By Jeanne Marcello & Hillary Grigonis Staff Reporter

Welcome to the 2009 fall flu season. Several schools in the region had already closed for health reasons. Locally, Montrose has been the only school to close thus far. The Montrose school district sustained the highest percentage of absentees, with 25 percent, while the Chesaning school district reported only eight percent absent. Within the past two weeks, St. Charles schools had peaked at 14 percent absent, but now are down to 10 percent.

MONTROSE SCHOOLS

The decision to close had weighed especially heavy on Montrose Superintendent Mark Kleinhans last week. By Tuesday, the Montrose School District had an overall absenteeism rate of 24 percent. He explained that if the schools are closed for a couple of days to allow students and staff to recover, there’s no guarantee that attendance will be any better when they return the next week.

“The thing that concerns me is a doctor’s office called to tell us we had a student with H1N1,” Kleinhans told school board members during the Oct. 27 committee meeting. That means the district has three confirmed cases of H1N1 in the schools, two at the high school and one at the elementary school.

Kuehn-Haven Middle School, however, has been hit the hardest where student absenteeism was up to 31percent one day the previous week. Kuehn- Haven Principal Edward Graham said he walked in and asked, “Where are all the kids?”

Walking through the schools on Thursday, Oct. 29, Kleinhans noticed a classroom at the middle school with only seven students. The average class size was 25. As he talked with staff, he could tell many of them weren’t feeling well.

Thursday was the day when kids were filing into the school offices to have their parents called to take them home. “We have so many sick kids. It’s almost overwhelming,” Kleinhans said.

By the end of the day Thursday, absenteeism had grown to 25 percent of the student population. There were 380 students absent of the 1,516 in the district. Plus, with so many teachers sick, Kleinhans felt they wouldn’t be able to get enough substitute teachers. “Its best to get everyone out,” he concluded.

Carter Elementary custodians had been taking every other day off their usual cleaning schedule to sanitize the building. However, with the school closed on Friday, Oct. 30, Kleinhans scheduled all the custodial staff to work on one shift sanitizing ALL the buildings. Describing their cleaning efforts he said, “We did the full court press.”

Montrose Schools have posted information on their website about how to care for persons having the flu. The school nurse provided the information posted. Visit: www.montrose.k12.mi.us

Montrose Schools are set to resume classes on Monday, Nov. 2. The high school play has been rescheduled for Nov. 7, for more information, see the school website noted above.

CHESANING SCHOOLS

Chesaning Union Schools have been very lucky, with a district-wide absenteeism rate of 7-8 percent.

Chesaning schools have posted several flu information links on thewebsite including: Flu Guide for Daycare, Flu Guide for School Parents and Parent Newsletter – H1N1. To view these documents, visit the Chesaning schools website at: www.chesaning. k12.mi.us

ST. CHARLES SCHOOLS

St. Charles Superintendent Michael Wallace said the district has bounced back to over 90 percent of students in attendance as of Thursday. He said the district has monitored attendance daily, with the numbers falling no lower than 85 to 86 percent of students in attendance within the past two weeks.

“The flu is going through us, but not at a rampage pace,” he said.

Wallace said the district has had two confirmed cases of the H1N1 flu strain. He said an elemen- tary student and an alternative education student were both diagnosed during a weekend and recovered before returning to school.

NEW LOTHROP SCHOOLS

New Lothrop Superintendent John Strycker said the district has noticed a dip in attendance, but the number of students in attendance has not fallen below 90 percent.

“That’s low for us,” he said. “We have an extremely high attendance rate [on average].”

Strycker said he feels good about the numbers, considering the conditions of flu season.

The district reported 92.7 percent attendance on Thursday, with 96 percent in the elementary and 91 percent in both the junior high and high schools.

Strycker said the district had one confirmed case of the H1N1 influenza, reported about two weeks ago with no further complications.

IMPORTANT: The CDC recommends that individuals with influenzalike illness remain at home until at least 24 hours after they are free of fever (100 degrees Fahrenheit or greater) or signs of a fever, without the use of feverreducing medications. For more information about the flu, visit the CDC website: www.cdc.gov/ h1n1flu/

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