Thursday, February 8, 2007
Sickness strikes county schools
By BARRY BURLESON
High absenteeism due to an outbreak of sickness meant no classes two days last week, Thursday and Friday, for students in the Marshall County School District.
Don Randolph, superintendent of education, said the number of children absent from the district’s schools rose to more than 400 on Monday and Tuesday, Jan. 29-30. The total student population is approximately 3,500.
The district was battling three different ailments – stomach virus, strep throat and the flu.
“We started noticing it the Friday before (January 26) at Mary Reid,” Randolph said, “and it looked like it was increasing daily. It started to spread.
“Of those at home Friday and Monday, some were coming back to school with high grade temperatures, making the well kids sick.”
Absenteeism at Mary Reid Elementary in Potts Camp, grades kindergarten through third, reached a high of more than 40, according to principal Leigh Anne Sanderson. That’s almost 20 percent of its 230 students.
On the other end of the county, the number of students not attending classes at Byhalia Elementary and Middle School due to sickness also reached near 20 percent.
“One day we had well over 200 missing, and that same day, we had 40 or 50 who left because they got sick,” said Kerry Reid, principal of Byhalia Middle School.
There are approximately 1,200 students enrolled in grades K-8 at Byhalia.
The rash of sickness and absenteeism spread across the district - to the high schools, too.
County administrators also saw the forecast for a wintry weather mix Thursday and Friday. Holly Springs city schools and Holy Family dismissed classes those two days due to ice and snow. Marshall Academy cancelled classes Friday only.
“We began to get the broadcasts on the weather, and it looked like we would be out due to the weather,” Randolph said.
He said cancelling school was the right decision, leaving a four-day period (Thursday through Sunday) to disinfect the schools and give the children an opportunity to get well.
“We felt the decision was in the best interest of the sick students and the ones who were well,” Randolph said. “We needed to try to kill some of those germs. We made a good decision.”
Classes resumed Monday of this week, and in an update Tuesday morning, the superintendent of education said the county school district’s absentees were at 359 Monday and 286 Tuesday, 73 less than the day before.
“It looks like were coming down, and that’s good,” Randolph said.
He said the two days will be made up - one coming on Monday, Feb. 19, which was scheduled to be a holiday for President’s Day. Students will now attend school that day. The other make-up day will be announced later.
“And we’re not out of the woods yet as far as this winter weather goes,” Randolph said. “It’s just early February.”
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