Illness plaguing county schools

By Staff
Mike Self, FCT Sports Editor
West Elementary principal Ramona Robinson was busy as usual on Friday morning, but she wasn't tied up in meetings or sitting at her desk evaluating test scores.
Instead, Clorox wipes in one hand and Lysol can in the other, Robinson was doing her part to combat the spread of germs at a time when an unusually high number of students and faculty members have been out sick.
"We have had an extremely high number of absentees," Robinson said. "We've been sending kids home with high fevers, 102, 103, 104, you name it. We have seen some flu-like symptoms, and we've also had some cases of strep throat and several stomach viruses. Our babies are sick, and we're trying to the best we can to take care of them."
Absentee numbers have been unusually high at schools in other areas of the state as well as flu season seems to have arrived ahead of schedule.
"This all seems to be happening a little earlier than normal," Robinson said. "It's not even winter yet. And it's not just the students who are sick. We've had several teachers out, too."
Phil Campbell Elementary principal Jackie Ergle said absentee numbers are up at her school, too, but not necessarily due to the flu.
"We haven't had a lot of children out with the flu," Ergle said. "We've had several stomach viruses and a few cases of strep throat, but not really the flu. Hopefully we'll be able to avoid that."
Robinson said that the situation at West Elementary (and other schools as well) would improve if parents would adhere to one simple rule: Sick children belong at home, not at school.
"One thing that would help us tremendously is parents keeping their children home until they're well," Robinson said.
"We'll send a child home with a fever of 102, and they're back at school the next day. Parents have to understand that their child needs to be fever-free, without Tylenol or anything, for 24 hours before they're ready to come back to school.
"I realize a lot of parents work and have some tough choices to make, but it would really help us if they could keep their children at home until they're well. And it would be better for their kids, too."
Robinson said that she and her staff stress to parents that sick children, particularly those exhibiting flu-like symptoms, need Tylenol, juices and lots of bed rest.

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