Rogersville schools try to head off flu epidemic

Jeff Bobo • Feb 20, 2008 at 12:00 AM

ROGERSVILLE — The only people attending Rogersville City School today and Friday will be custodians in rubber gloves scrubbing the entire school interior with disinfectant.

RCS has canceled classes for the rest of the week in hopes of heading off an epidemic.

Of the K-8 school’s 650 students, 106 either stayed home sick Wednesday or went home during the day.

Ordinarily RCS averages 95 percent attendance. But taking into account the partial-day attendance credit the school received for the students who went home early, Wednesday’s official attendance was at 87 percent.

Principal Bill Walker said Wednesday it wasn’t just the typical flu symptoms. There were headaches and coughing, but also a lot of strep throat, stomach virus, vomiting and high fever.

“Almost everybody who came through the nurse’s office today was running a fever between 100 and 102, and that’s the main reason we’re shutting down because anytime you’ve got fevers you know it’s contagious,” Walker said. “If it had just been headache or if it had just been stomachache, we wouldn’t have shut down. But so many had fevers, and when we would call the parents to come get them we’d find out the little brother was at home sick or the parent was home sick.

“We had a parent come pick up a child yesterday, and she laid her head up against the wall, and one of the secretaries asked if she was OK. She said she wasn’t feeling well, and when we took her into the nurse’s office to take her temperature, it was 102.”

Aside from regular classes RCS has also canceled Parks and Recreation activities at the school and closed the walking trail in the gymnasium, which is open to the public in the evenings.

Today and Friday custodians will be scrubbing walls, doorknobs, desktops, drinking fountains, restrooms and other surfaces with bleach and Lysol. Walker said the hope is that by Monday the illnesses will have run their course and students can return well to a germ-free school.

“We sent home letters today (Wednesday) recommending to parents for children to drink lots of fluids, get lots of rest, and to stay away from big crowds,” Walker said. “The parents we talked to who came in and picked up their kids during the day and after school said they thought this was a good move. I didn’t have one complaint because they know a lot of kids are out sick.”

There was no plan as of Wednesday evening for Hawkins County Schools to close down, although Director of Schools Charlotte Britton said some schools were below 90 percent attendance on Wednesday.

Britton said she and her staff will evaluate attendance numbers today to determine if any action will be taken.

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