County school system notes increase in student absences due to illness

Published 5:26 pm Wednesday, January 31, 2018

As the flu season continues in full swing across the region, the Carter County school system has noticed an increase in student absences.

Last week, the system saw a decline in student attendance each day according to Beth Bare, director of the Coordinated School Health program.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

The school system is tracking both student absences as well as absences from teachers and para-professionals due to illness.

During last year’s flu season, the county school system canceled school to allow time for students and staff to recover from the illness and to try to prevent the spread of the virus. That decision was based in part on a steep decline in student attendance after one day saw about 25 percent of the students absent due to illness.

This year, though, the schools aren’t seeing that level of absentees due to the flu.

While the number of students absent increased last week, Bare said it was not an unusual occurrence.

“It was well within the normal range for cold and flu season,” Bare said.

Bare said she had spoken with Danny McClain, who serves as the attendance supervisor, on Wednesday and he told her the preliminary attendance numbers for Monday were better than they were on Friday.

“I’m hoping we’re going to hit a peak this week and get back to being healthy,” she said.

The school system is still asking parents and guardians to keep children at home if they are sick or exhibiting flu-like symptoms. Bare said the school system’s policy requires that a child be fever free without the use of fever-reducing medications for at least 24 hours.

“If they are fever free because you have given them medication, that’s not really fever free,” she said.

Through the school system’s telehealth program students can visit the school nurse and then be seen by the nurse practitioner if they are sick. Bare said flu and strep tests can be performed on the children on-site at their school.

According to Bare, the school system is encouraging parents to take advantage of the telehealth programs in the schools.

“If they are sick and already there we can see them and then send them home so they won’t have to go to the doctor’s office or wait in a waiting room,” she said.

Bare said the school is also asking parents to encourage their children to practice good hygiene such as frequent handwashing and covering their coughs and sneezes.

The school system is also asking staff members to do extra cleaning of common surfaces to help stop the spread of the virus.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, flu virus activity remains high across the country and the number of states reporting “high” flu activity increased from 32 to 39 last week. The CDC stated they expect flu virus activity is “likely to continue for several more weeks.”