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Fewer students sick after school reopens

April 26, 2006|by DAVE McMILLION

HARPERS FERRY, W.VA.

The decision to close C.W. Shipley Elementary School for two weeks in an attempt to control the spread of strep throat among students seems to have improved the situation, school officials said Tuesday.

On Monday, the first day of classes after a two-week break, 26 students were absent. On Tuesday, 21 students were absent, Principal Mark Osbourn said.

The 21 absences Tuesday represents about a 5 to 6 percent absentee rate, which is about the same absentee rate the school was experiencing before the situation, Osbourn said.

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During the rash of sickness at the school, up to 40 or 50 children were out of school on some days, representing an absentee rate of about 10 to 12 percent, Osbourn said.

"It's helpful, no doubt about it," Osbourn said of the break.

"It looks like it worked as well as we could have hoped," Jefferson County School Superintendent R. Steven Nichols said.

Osbourn said medical experts have not suggested the school try anything new to control strep, and officials are monitoring the situation.

School officials decided to close C.W. Shipley after strep and influenza began spreading through the school along U.S. 340 north of Charles Town. At one point, the number of sick children rose to 202 and parents and teachers expressed concerns about students suffering serious health problems from getting ill repeatedly.

There are 420 children who attend the school.

School officials tried to control the problem by setting off fogging devices that clean the air and having custodians sanitize the school.

The decision was made to close the school one week before the one-week Easter break to give children two weeks off.

Children who come down with strep have about a 10-day infectious period and officials hoped the time off from school would allow the children to be away from each other long enough so they would not pass it to each other.

Shannon Kitchen, one of 12 parents of C.W. Shipley students who signed a petition asking that the school be shut down, agreed Tuesday that the situation has improved.

The test of the effectiveness of the shutdown will be determined in coming weeks, Kitchen said.

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