Students head back to school after days off for illness


Students are headed back to class after hundreds staying home the last couple of days for widespread illness. As the flu season peaks, we wanted to know when school officials find its necessary to call off school.

News 5's Kristi O'Connor went to schools that are both open and closed to find out. In the last couple of weeks, more and more students in Johnson City Schools are staying home because of the flu. They typically have a 95 percent attendance rate, but lately its dropped to 90 percent. "This has been one of the more significant flu season for us," Communications Coordinator of Johnson City Schools Dr. Debra Bentley said. Still, school has remained in session. Bentley says attendance has not dropped low enough here to call off yet. "We have not established a certain number, but we will look at all the factors that have contributed to attendance," Bentley said. Sullivan County Schools does not have a written protocol either, but when attendance rates dropped four out of the five days last week, Superintendent Evelyn Rafalowski said it was time. "We took advantage of the weekend and tagged two days onto that hoping four days will get us on the road to recovery," Rafalowski said. Local health officials say it is still too early to tell how severe this flu season is compared to others, but Regional Health Department Medical Director Dr. David Kirschke says calling off school likely will not stop the spread of the flu virus anyway. "Sometimes kids will still go out into the community, they will go to the mall, stay with their grandparents who are at a higher risk for flu, so its not necessarily the best strategy for controlling flu," Kirschke said. Whether in school or not, they are still taking extra precautions like cleaning and monitoring the clinics. "If a student comes to the clinic with a 100 degree temperature or more we immediately call a parent to come pick up the child," Bentley said. Washington County, Tenn. schools is at a 90 percent attendance rate, down from the usual 91 to 93 percent.

Kingsport City Schools has a 93.4 percent attendance rate, down from 94-95 percent.

Johnson County Schools will be out of school on Thursday and Friday because of the flu.

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