County schools close due to illness after attendance drops

Published 6:53 pm Thursday, February 16, 2017


After seeing a sudden and steep decline in student attendance, Carter County school system officials decided to cancel school on Friday due to illness.
On Tuesday, Carter County Director of Schools Dr. Kevin Ward said attendance across the system was around 92 percent. “That’s about average for Carter County schools,” he said.
Schools were closed on Wednesday due to inclement weather after snow fell across the area. On Thursday morning the schools operated on a two-hour delay to give additional time for road conditions in Roan Mountain to improve.
“Coming back today I had a gut feeling the numbers would be down based on what I was hearing,” Ward said on Thursday. “As of this morning when we received our numbers we were at 75 percent, so we saw a significant decline.”
Schools were also reporting that some of the students who were in attendance Thursday morning were leaving school early due to illness, Ward said.
“We had a good run going, but when it hit, it hit,” Ward said.
Several schools had high absentee numbers on Thursday. At Hampton Elementary 175 students and staff members were absent that morning, Ward said.
With the decision to close schools on Friday and the scheduled closure on Monday due to the President’s Day holiday the schools will now have an extended weekend to recuperate and prepare for students to return.
“That will give us four days to try to let this bug pass through,” Ward said.
During the extended weekend, Ward said the school system is asking the janitors at each school to do some intense cleaning and disinfecting while the students and staff are absent.
In addition to classes, Ward said other events would be canceled over the weekend as well.
“We put out a note to principals to cancel all school-related events for the next four days,” Ward said, adding that included things such as practices, extracurricular organizations, and youth clubs. “That does not include the TSSAA sanctioned events. That is the only thing it doesn’t include.”
The school system has no control over the scheduling of TSSAA sporting events and tournaments, Ward said, adding TSSAA tournaments set to take place this weekend will go on as planned.

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