Blount County Schools will be out for the remainder of the week in response to an illness that has as much as 14 percent of the system’s children absent with flu-like and cold-like symptoms.
Alisa Teffeteller, public information officer, said school will not be in session Thursday, Friday or the following Monday, which was scheduled off because of the Labor Day holiday.
Teffeteller said 14 percent absentee rate was out of the ordinary, she said.
“That is higher than the normal,” said Teffeteller. “It looks like it has hit William Blount High School the hardest. Heritage High School would be the next one with Heritage Middle School, Eagleton Middle School and Rockford Elementary schools following,” she said. “It’s going in pockets. In some schools, we’ve had only 5 percent absenteeism.”
Teffeteller said there has not been a tremendous amount of absenteeism among teachers. “At this point our staff hasn’t been that greatly affected,” she said.
Teffeteller said students are complaining of flu-like and cold-like symptoms. “Some students have fevers, some have upset stomachs and other have cold symptoms, so it’s a combination,” she said. “We’ve had some that were diagnosed with upper respiratory infections and bronchitis.”
Teffeteller said custodial staff are taking extra measures to sanitize schools. “Our custodial staff will be working to disinfect the high traffic areas, and there will be extra sanitization of classrooms, desks, door knobs and water fountains,” she said.
Teffeteller said schools director Rob Britt made the decision on closing schools.
“Mr. Britt has been taking enrollment absenteeism for the staff and student at all schools all week and looking at percentages in making the determination,” she said. “Of course Monday is holiday so that makes it a longer length of time for individuals to be at home and hopefully become fever-free.”
Teffeteller said the systems’ Friends afterschool program will be open at select sites, including Carpenters Elementary Schools, Eagleton Elementary School, Fairview Elementary School, Mary Blount Elementary School, Porter Elementary School, Walland Elementary School and Union Grove Elementary School. “Of course student attending that must be fever-free,” she said. “Also parents need to know there is an additional fee because it would be an all-day event.”
“Football games are still on,” said Teffeteller. “Mr. Britt is leaving that to the discretion of the principals in regards to whether they feel like they should continue with football games.”
On Tuesday, Alcoa City Schools director of schools Tom Shamblin made the decision to close Alcoa schools Wednesday through Labor Day. An in-service day for teachers and staff was already scheduled on Friday, which was canceled. Students and teachers will return to Alcoa on Tuesday, Sept. 8.
“This gives us six days to break this cycle,” said Shamblin.
On Tuesday, 150 students at the middle school were absent for illness and approximately seven teachers, Shamblin said. The elementary school had over 100 students absent as well.
“It is my understanding that kids have gone to their health care providers and tested positive for the flu,” Shamblin said. “They don’t know which kind it is until they send the culture off, so they can’t say they have Swine flu or what kind of flu, just that they have the flu. There are other illnesses out there that are also affecting the children, too.”
The Alcoa Middle School football games have been canceled. The Alcoa High School will play Friday at Loudon as scheduled.
Maryville City Schools said on Tuesday that they were seeing average absenteeism but are monitoring attendance in light of the flu outbreak, said director of communications Sharon Anglim.
“So far so good in Maryville city, knock on wood. Our absentee rate is 5 percent across the board which is not alarming at all,” she said.
Anglim said the school system’s effort to inform parents on being diligent in making sure children have healthy hygiene habits helped, as had the extra work by teachers and custodians to make sure classrooms are extra clean.
“Overall our numbers were in line with what you expect,” she said. “Some schools are a little high and some a little low. Overall, it’s right at 5 percent absentee rate as of today. We’re monitoring it everyday.”