Viruses hitting area schools hard

December 10, 2003|HERB BROCK

Boyle County Director of Pupil Personnel Mike Pittman may have to order the maintenance department at Boyle County High School to change the front doors to the school into revolving doors.

"On Monday, students at the high school were checking out right and left," Pittman said Tuesday. "We are definitely feeling the effects of the illnesses that are going around."

Other area schools also have been feeling effects of a recent outbreak of viruses, including a small number of confirmed cases of influenza. Attendance at schools in the Danville, Casey, Garrard and Lincoln County districts and at Kentucky School for the Deaf also have been affected by illness-related absenteeism and early departures from school. Other districts, including the ones in Garrard County and Mercer County, reported either normal or slightly below normal attendance.

Several area schools fell below 90 percent in attendance on Monday, and the situation is forcing officials to consider making some decisions regarding classes and games.


Schools receive state funding based on their average daily attendance, and if the attendance falls to a certain level for two or more consecutive days, it makes it financially prohibitive to hold school. Area school officials put the cutoff at between 85 and 87 percent attendance. Officials also are considering postponing or canceling basketball games and other extracurricular activities.

In the Boyle district, 13.9 percent of the 2,711 students were absent or had left school early on Monday, Pittman said. That attendance rate of 86.1 percent is far below the district's daily average of 96.9 percent. Boyle officials were considering postponing high school games beginning Thursday and looking at canceling classes; no decisions had been made as of early today.

"By the end of the day Monday, we had 376 students out of school. As of (10 a.m. Tuesday), 325 were out but that number could, like on Monday, grow as the day goes on," said Pittman.

The high school, where attendance was below 85 percent as some 140 students were absent Monday, was hit hardest. Attendance also was well below 90 percent at the middle school, and several absentees were reported at Woodlawn Elementary School.

"As we speak, attendance has been in good shape at Perryville and Junction City (elementary schools). But that's, as I say, as we speak," he said.

In the Danville district, average daily attendance is over 95 percent of the 1,800 students, but student headcounts didn't come close to adding up to that percentage at Danville High School, Bate Middle School or Hogsett Elementary School, said Director of Pupil Personnel Chuck Stallard.

"We had about 12 percent out at the high school and 11 percent out at both Bate and Hogsett," Stallard said. "We've also had several staff members out sick." The sick list on Tuesday included the top member of the Danville district's staff - Superintendent Bob Rowland.

"We're going to be closely monitoring our attendance situation at every one of our five schools," said Stallard. "We would like to keep our doors open as long as possible and make it to the Christmas holidays without missing any days, but that's out of our control."

In the Casey County district, overall attendance in the 2,400-student district averages over 95 percent, but it was 90 percent on Monday and dropped to 88 percent on Tuesday, said Pupil Personnel Director Dale Wilson.

"Another day or so of below-90 percent attendance and we're going to have to consider closing up shop," Wilson said. "It's not feasible financially for us to try to hold school when our attendance is 87 percent or below."

In the Lincoln County district, attendance also has been lower than normal.

"Attendance at our high school was 89 percent (on Tuesday). Yes, we're feeling some effects from illnesses," said Pupil Personnel Director Bruce Smith, whose district has an overall average daily attendance of over 95 percent.

The health picture was mixed in the Garrard County district but overall was positive, according to Director of Pupil Personnel Louie Hammons.

"Attendance at (Garrard County High School) and Paint Lick Elementary School was below 90 percent Monday and (Tuesday), but attendance was well above 90 percent at the middle school and the other elementaries and close to our disrtrict's daily average of 95 percent," Hammons said.

"We are seeing some effects of illnesses but I'm not getting any calls from any of schools reporting drastic increases in absentees," he said. "With a couple of exceptions, we're OK, at least for now."

The situation is OK for all three schools in the Mercer County district, said Pupil Personnel Director Johnny Slone.

"Our school nurses have reported seeing a few more students than normal, and they say some students are complaining of flu-like symptoms," Slone said, "But we've had no confirmed cases of the flu in our district, and our attendance (on Tuesday) was 94.6 percent, and that's just slightly below our 96 percent daily average.

"The situation could change tomorrow, and it might, given the report that flu is invading the state from the west, but so far we're in very good shape illness-wise and attendance-wise," he said.

Meanwhile, a large percentage of the students at KSD were too ill to attend classes on Monday and Tuesday and several had to be sent home from the residential institution, said Principal Fran Hardin.

"On Monday we had 34 students and seven staff who were ill with flu or flu-like illnesses and on Tuesday we had 36 students and three staff who were sick," said Hardin.

The high absentee rate and concerns over spreading the viruses have caused KSD to cancel sports contests for the week.

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