• Last modified 1609 days ago (Jan. 28, 2015)


Sickness on the way? MES afflicted

Monday was highest number of absentees in years, teachers say

Staff writer

More than 70 students missed school on Monday at Marion Elementary School because of illness — the highest absenteeism for a single day in at least four years.

Many of the children experienced flu-like symptoms, with high fevers, headaches, vomiting, coughing, sore throats and general malaise, said Jane King, USD 408 school nurse. Some students also have tested positive for influenza virus A, King said.

King and Principal Justin Wasmuth each have been at the elementary school for four years, and they both said that Monday was the highest absenteeism rate they have seen, with 74 children sick or nearly 30 percent of the 260 students at the elementary school. That total includes students who went home sick from school Monday.

Superintendent Lee Leiker said the district does not keep track of record absenteeism numbers through the years, but Monday’s numbers stood out for him. “This is the highest single day (of absenteeism) I can remember,” said Leiker, who has been with the district 11 years.

“The high school and middle school are not bad yet,” King said. “The elementary school is the worst. It’s just sweeping through.”

Many children were also sick over the weekend, King said, and 12 percent of the student body called in sick Friday. Fifty students, or about 19 percent, stayed away from school Tuesday because of illness.

The totals do not include absenteeism from the Head Start program at the elementary school, with nearly a third of the more than 30 children staying home sick, a parent said.

King said the kids who did receive flu shots are probably better off than those who did not. When parents called to say their child or children were sick, school officials are asking what specifically the sickness is.

King said some parents are being hyper-vigilant.

“Sometimes parents will keep them home if they don’t want their kids to get sick at school,” King said, adding that parents are required to keep kids home until they have been fever-free and vomit-free for 24 hours.

Wasmuth, who brought his own son home Monday because he was showing symptoms, said custodians are cleaning and disinfecting as much as possible.

“Seems like everybody is getting the whole tidal wave of sickness now. I’ve never seen anything at this level,” Wasmuth said.

Despite the high absenteeism, Wasmuth said school operated as normal.

“We just have school like we always do,” Wasmuth said.

King, who called in sick Tuesday, notified the county health department of the high absenteeism and the positive influenza type A cases. Diedre Serene, administrator for the health department, was unavailable for comment because she also was out sick Tuesday, said a member of the county health staff.

The sickness has not traveled to the Hillsboro schools, at least not yet. The number of sick students remains at manageable numbers, below 10 percent of the student body population, but many students from both towns participate in recreation sports together, said Alissa Unruh, the registered nurse for USD 410.

“If it increases there, or at one place or another, then we usually follow suit,” Unruh said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we see our (sick) numbers increase.”

Last modified Jan. 28, 2015