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Absence rate reaches 11.4 percent
School Illness.jpg
WCHS student Hannah Corley, 16, has her temperature taken by Shelia Lane, the PRN at the high school. “We’ve been very busy,” says Lane. “This Monday, 59 students came to the nurse’s office, and by 2 p.m. Tuesday, we had already seen 50.” - photo by Atlanta Northcutt

Warren County schools are closing for the second time in two weeks due to an influx of students, staff and bus drivers being absent following an epidemic of illnesses.

Director of Schools Bobby Cox closed schools once again Wednesday through Friday of this week as absences continue to rise. 

“We’re going to close schools for the rest of the week again,” said Cox. “Seven percent of teachers and more bus drivers have reported out. Our decision came after speaking with the majority of clinics in town, the health department and the school system’s medical advisor, Dr. Bryan Chastain. They have all seen an increase in patients due to these illnesses. For preventive measures, we decided to close schools once again.”

Last Wednesday through Friday, Warren County schools were canceled due to illnesses, which included the flu, strep throat and stomach viruses, plaguing students and causing an influx of absences.

“The nurses are telling me the most common symptoms they’re seeing are fever, vomiting, sore throat and body aches,” said Sonja Walker, the Health Services director of Warren County Schools.

On Tuesday, Jan. 28, 11.8% of students were absent from school. This Tuesday, the absence rate was 11.4%, up from 9.6% the previous day.

“By Tuesday afternoon, 718 students were out compared to 598 students being absent on Monday,” said director of attendance Jeff Martin. “Closing schools last week helped a little bit, but there is a lot of contact as kids interact with each other at school. Although those three days helped, the symptoms are still here.”

Warren County High School has approximately 1,800 students. Yesterday, 229 of those students were unable to attend school, and many had to be checked out throughout the day. 

“Each of my classes has about four or five students absent,” says WCHS student Hannah Corley, 16. “It’s gotten worse since yesterday. A lot more people in my classes are becoming absent and you can really see the difference in the lack of vehicles in the student parking lot.”

Cox states the school system relied on the advice of medical professionals within the community to close schools for the rest of the week.

“Illness doesn’t generate in schools. It’s a byproduct of having so many people confined in one building,” says Cox. “When schools were closed last week, we went through all of the schools and disinfected as much as possible, but whatever is in the community transfers to the schools.”

“It’s frustrating because we were out five days last week including the weekend, and it hasn’t made a large improvement,” adds Cox.

On Tuesday, Jan. 28 student absences were close to 12%, along with 9% of teachers and 10 bus drivers.

“We’re close to that number again,” says Cox. “Our goal was to get ahead of it, and do what we could to keep kids at home. We were a little over 9% of student absences on Monday, so obviously that didn’t do a great deal.” 

“I don’t have an answer on how to stop the problem,” adds Martin. “This is going to have to run its course.”