March 1, 2007

Sick Days Racking Up at SCR-I

Knock on wood, but the Scotland County R-I School District appears to have weathered the storm. While Mother Nature cost the school district a number of days in February due to inclement weather, it was a different problem that had students missing classes the final two weeks of the month.

Influenza and strep throat were two of the leading culprits that had the district’s absence numbers approaching 15 percent of the entire student body.

“I think we are kind of over it now,” said school nurse Patty Eggleston. “But the last couple of weeks we had days where there were 75 to 80 students absent because of sickness.”

Elementary School Principal Rob Moore agreed that the district appears to be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.

“Today (February 26th) we have nine students out,” Moore said. “A few weeks ago when illness was at its peak, we had about 10 percent of the kids out.”

Eggleston stated the outbreak appeared to take a heavier toll on younger students. She also noted that the length of absences was longer than normal, with many sick children missing as much as seven to 10 days of class while recovering.

“At the same time, that really helped us,” Eggleston said of the extended absences. “The illnesses were bad enough to keep the sick kids at home. That helps keep the spread to a minimum if the contagious students get healthy before they return to class.”

The district policy calls for students with a temperature of higher than 100-degrees to stay home from school. The procedure also indicates that the student should wait 24-hours after the temperature drops below 100 degrees before returning to class.

“Hopefully we have made it through the worst,” Moore said. “It seems like every year, the kids come back from Christmas break, when they have traveled all over to see family, and they bring back an unwanted gift for their fellow students. That, and we start seeing basketball season in full swing when our students travel to a lot of different schools and bring back whatever illnesses they are suffering through.”

The district looks to the local doctors to help determine when and if school should be canceled due to illness.

“We don’t have a written policy on canceling classes due to sickness,” said SCR-I Superintendent Dave Shalley. “The administration talks with local physicians to discuss the conditions to determine if the district needs to cancel classes due to illness.”

This year the worst days have seen roughly 13-percent of the district’s students absent. Shalley noted that state financial aid to schools is based on attendance, and when numbers reach 18 to 19 percent absent, the district begins taking loses on state aid, another factor that could be considered in canceling classes during a time of extended school-wide illness.

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