School districts keep watchful eye on flu, other ailments

By HASKEL BURNS AND BETH BUNCH,

It’s no surprise with the back-and-forth weather that Mississippi has been receiving for the last few weeks – 70 degrees one day, 40 the next – that cases of the sniffles and other ailments have taken their toll on Pine Belt residents.

And while that problem has resulted in a few absences at area schools, attendance numbers haven’t gone down that much, and officials are closely monitoring the situation to make sure it affects students, teachers and staff as little as possible.

At the Petal School District, no more than 10 percent of the district’s population has been absent since late last month.

“We’ve been hovering at around 91 and a half percent attendance, where we usually hover around 95 or 96, so we’ve seen a couple percentage decrease overall from the district numbers,” district superintendent Matt Dillon said. “So we’re down a couple of attendance points from where we usually are at this time, but all in all we’re feeling good.”

To make sure those attendance numbers don’t fall any lower, officials are taking extra precautions to prevent the spread of contagions.

“We’ve been monitoring the flu and other sicknesses as well – this can’t be all associated with the flu, but it has been throughout our schools,” Dillon said. “So we’ve been very proactive with our cleaning measures with our night crew, in addition to disinfecting buses, classrooms, common areas, restrooms and things of that nature.

“The best thing we can do right now, if a kid has a fever or flu-like symptoms, we want to keep them at home so we don’t spread that.”

Lamar County School District Superintendent Tess Smith reported during Monday’s board meeting that attendance had dropped in recent days as a result of the flu. Smith had visited all 19 campuses during a three-day period to check on things throughout the district.

“We’ve managed to duck and cover with substitutes and we’ve had to double up with some classes and things like that,” she said. “I checked with other districts and thankfully, we’ve not dropped as low as many of the others and had those issues other districts have dealt with.”