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Flu, strep cause school closures

Flu, strep cause school closures

By CHRIS MENEES
Staff Reporter
Obion County Director of Schools David Huss hopes a long weekend will help restore health to the county school system.
All schools in the Obion County School System were closed today and will remain closed Monday due to a severe outbreak of flu and strep.
As a result, all of students’ extracurricular activities — including athletic contests or practices and participation in this weekend’s Christmas parades — will cease or be rescheduled accordingly.
“All activities are canceled,” Huss confirmed today.
Classes are scheduled to resume Tuesday.
County schools’ classes were canceled at the end of Thursday’s school day after the state Department of Education granted the Obion County School System’s request for permission to close.
“Although the sickness has not hit the county as a whole, our fear is that if we do not take steps now to prevent the spread, it will just be a matter of time,” Huss wrote in his request for the school cancellation.
He said the school district stockpiles days and he requested the use of two stockpiled days for the two days school will be dismissed.
Huss told The Messenger today that Obion County Central High School and Hillcrest Elementary — both in Troy — have been the hardest hit by sickness so far.
“It’s not just flu but also strep,” he said.
When the cancellation decision was made Thursday, OCCHS had 222 students absent from its 929-student population. By day’s end, Hillcrest had over 100 students missing from its 570-student population, according to Huss.
He said students were also lined up Thursday at the nurse’s office at OCCHS.
“It’s been hit the worst,” Huss said. “We already had 222 out and then they were lined up.”
Sickness is also starting to affect Black Oak Elementary in Hornbeak, where the attendance rate Thursday was barely above 90 percent. Huss said county schools typically run 95 percent attendance just about every day.
South Fulton schools have not been hit too hard yet, according to Huss, who hopes closing schools will curb any further spread of disease by keeping students from mingling at various activities.
A large part of the concern with preventing further illness is the school system’s end-of-course tests scheduled to begin Thursday and continue through Dec. 21.
“We’re trying to get our kids well so they can come back next Tuesday and finish the semester strong,” Huss said.
He said some people have mentioned the possibility of cleaning, scrubbing and disinfecting schools to help prevent illness, but he said it’s basically a vicious cycle when students with symptoms of illness return and it starts all over again.
The state Health Department has reported seasonal influenza is widespread in Tennessee and county health department clinics are now offering free flu vaccines to people of all ages until supplies are depleted.
The department is urging all Tennesseans to get vaccinated now to help protect themselves and those around them from the virus, the Associated Press reported today. The Health Department operates clinics in 89 of the state’s 95 counties.
Because vaccine supplies vary from county to county, residents are urged to contact their local county health departments for more information.
Staff Reporter Chris Menees may be contacted by email at cmenees@ucmessenger.com.

Published in The Messenger 12.7.12

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