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School board considers flu virus threat

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By The Staff

By DAMON LAWRENCE

dlawrence@roanecounty.com

Current school board policy on attendance does not make reference to any particular illness. One school board member wants the board to consider altering the policy because of one, however.

At last week’s board meeting, Rob Jago wanted the board to consider a temporary modification of the attendance policy because of the H1N1 flu.

When it came time to discuss it, Jago changed his mind.

“The policy committee is meeting Oct. 1,” he said. “I’d like to defer that to the policy committee meeting.”

After last week’s meeting Jago said he doesn’t want parents sending their children to school if they are sick.  

“We need to be prepared in case it hits,” Jago said. “If it doesn’t, great. But I don’t want kids at school sick, passing it around and before you know it, everybody has it.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest that one way to prevent the spread of flu in schools is by extending the amount of time for ill people to stay home.

If the severity of flu increases, the CDC recommends that people with flu-like illness stay home for at least seven days, even if they have no more symptoms.  

If the board does modify its policy, Jago said he’d like to see some stipulations that include a diagnosis of flu.

“The modification is not just to be out,” he said. “There has to be some kind of accountability in it, like the diagnosis of flu where it does tie back to the H1N1. It doesn’t have to be that, but a flu or influenza.”

Illness and high absentee rates have forced several school systems to close this month. Roane County Director of Schools Toni McGriff told board members last week that attendance here has been good.

“Our attendance is running about 94 percent systemwide,” she said. “We’ll have a hot spot in one school maybe this week. Maybe one day. Might run that school that whole week, but we’re still very good. Running about the same thing for teachers, about a 6-percent absentee.

“Now you need to understand something,” McGriff added. “Everybody that’s out doesn’t have the flu. There are a lot of people that are out that have strep throat, or they have a stomach virus.”

Jago said other organizations are altering policies because of the H1N1 flu, and he said he thinks the school system should as well.

“Other places are doing it, businesses are doing it,” he said. “They are looking at their policies and doing like a temporary modification for this year, just to be ready.”