School back in session after flu cancels classes a second time

Posted January 23, 2013 at 8:05 pm

The flu-like viruses that have gripped most of the nation, especially since early winter, continued to “hang on” here in Clinton and surrounding counties last week, prompting school officials to again call off classes for two school days.

Following low attendance a week ago Friday, January 11, when more than 12 percent of the students across the district–and reportedly some teachers–were absent, Superintendent Charlotte Bernard announced the cancellation of classes for Monday and Tuesday, January 14 and 15.

It was hoped that the weekend period and two class days would be enough time for the flu symptoms to be abated enough to return to school. However, when classes resumed last Wednesday, January 16, not only had the situation not improved, but attendance numbers were even worse than the Friday before, when the attendance rate was slightly over 87 percent district-wide.

Classes resumed once again on Tuesday of this week, January 22., and the additional time at home apparently worked as district-wide attendance levels were reported to the Clinton County News on Tuesday morning to be at about 91 percent.

Director of Pupil Personnel Julie York told the Clinton County News last Wednesday afternoon that the decision to cancel classes once again was made when attendance that day was only 85.62 percent across the district.

By school, the rates were: Albany Elementary, 85.28; Early Childhood Center, 85.08; Clinton County High School, 85.37 and Clinton County Middle School, 84.36.

York noted that since this past Monday was Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and schools were going to be closed anyway, it would give students and faculty a total of five days off, saying she hoped the extra day in which there were no classes anyway would give enough time for everyone to get well.

Clinton County Superintendent Charlotte Bernard said in a brief interview Monday that the process for determining whether or not school should be closed due to illness is based on attendance.

“I consulted with our Director of Pupil Personnel. She monitors the attendance from day to day,” Bernard said. “When we suspect we have flu or a stomach virus going around, we monitor the average daily attendance.”

Bernard said each school takes attendance early each morning and York monitors the attendance throughout the day when illness is a factor.

“A lot of times if you are having a lot of sickness throughout the day, a large number of the students will sign out and the reason they put will be sickness,” Bernard said. “That indicates that you do have illness that merits watching.”

During the winter months, flu and other sickness can spread throughout the school system, bringing attendance numbers down. Bernard said she has to have at least one day in school for her to evaluate numbers and once the attendance percentage gets to a certain point, she determines when school will be let out.

“I have to collect the data in order to see how many of our students are impacted,” Bernard said. “I can’t go on based on what I’m hearing. I have to have proof and data to back up my decision.”

Bernard said the first day back after the Christmas break, the attendance was very high.

“It was almost 94 percent and it remained high throughout that week,” Bernard said. “There is not a magic number. I called around and asked some of the superintendents in other counties and you get alarmed when your schools get in the 80s as far as percentages are concerned. Most of the schools were at about 88 percent and that was a concern to me. At that point it is the best for students.”

Bernard said the janitors at each school are taking extra precautions in order to keep the school as germ free as possible.

“Right after we got back from Christmas and there were a lot of rumors about the sickness, I e-mailed the principals and asked them to make sure and clean the bathrooms good, students desktops and spray with disinfectant and things like that,” Bernard said.

Over the past several years, Bernard said as a whole the attendance has been improving from year to year. This year the schools have been up about a half percent from last year.

“We are having an average of 94 percent attendance which is up from last year,” Bernard said. “We finished last year at 93.5 percent. When I see our percentages get into the 80s, I think it’s time to turn out for a few days.