More Pa. students sick with flu-like illness

October 13, 2009|By JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, PA. -- Franklin County, Pa., schools are using hand sanitzer, extra cleaning and education about hand-washing in an attempt to thwart the spread of H1N1 virus.

School superintendents report more and more students are missing classes for flu-like illness. H1N1, commonly called swine flu, is confirmed in many of the instances.

"It's in every school," Waynesboro Area Superintendent James Robertson said.

Approximately 8 percent of Waynesboro's student population has been absent from school in recent days. Robertson said that rate is higher than typical times, but about equivalent to any flu season.

"In terms of operating a school, it's a bigger concern if we have sick staff members," Robertson said.

Greencastle-Antrim Superintendent C. Gregory Hoover agreed.

"I think that's where the real concern is -- if you don't have enough teachers and substitutes for the classrooms, bus drivers to drive the buses, and cafeteria workers to feed people," Hoover said.


Normal attendance rates are 94 percent to 96 percent, Hoover said. Now they stand at 91.8 percent, he said.

The Chambersburg Area School District also is experiencing increased absenteeism, spokeswoman Sylvia Rockwood said.

Daily absences typically occur for 5 percent to 7 percent of Chambersburg's student body, but they've been 10 percent to 12 percent recently, Rockwood said.

"What we're doing is looking at the numbers twice a day," she said, saying school officials want to monitor the number of students going home early for sickness.

Absenteeism includes not only illness, but also things like doctor appointments, college visits and family vacations.

Robertson said area doctors have been notifying schools about H1N1 cases, and reports have been made to the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

Waynesboro schools have hand sanitzer in common areas. Custodians are stepping up cleaning efforts with disease-killing products.

"We're spraying down all surfaces in the classroom," Robertson said.

"We're cleaning keyboards and being as vigilant as possible," Rockwood said.

Areas of the school with documented cases are receiving special care, Hoover said. Younger students are learning about hand-washing and how to cough away from people, he said.

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