Middle school absentee numbers drop | SteamboatToday.com

Middle school absentee numbers drop

Steamboat Springs Middle School could see attendance rebound

Jack Weinstein

— Students’ health could be getting better at Steamboat Springs Middle School.

A day after absentee numbers hit 151 – reaching a 30 percent threshold to begin discussions of closing the school – absentee numbers dipped to 131 students Wednesday. That represents 26 percent of the middle school’s student body and the least number of students missing this week, but only two fewer than were absent Monday.

Steamboat Springs School District Superintendent Shalee Cunningham said Friday’s scheduled meeting with the countywide swine flu group, which began meeting last spring, was canceled. She said Hayden Superintendent Greg Rockhold and South Routt Superintendent Scott Mader couldn’t attend.

But Cunningham added that she will meet Friday with Dot Haberlan, of the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association, and Jim Johnsen, emergency preparedness and response coordinator for the VNA, to look at the school attendance data from the week.

“There’s not a whole lot we can do differently,” Cunningham said, adding that the district had not established a benchmark for what number of absences would be problematic. “We’re functioning. The schools are operating. We had fewer kids out (today) than yesterday.”

District officials have said they don’t think the absences are the result of an H1N1 outbreak, but rather of a number of illnesses experienced by students.

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Haberlan said those illnesses include the flu, strep throat, stomach virus, sinus infection and head and chest colds.

She said some students who were sick recently were home again Wednesday. Haberlan said that indicated weakened immune systems or students who returned to school before they were completely healthy. She urged parents to keep their children home 24 hours after their fevers were gone.

“We’re still seeing sick kids come to school,” Haberlan said. “That just spreads it.”

Principal Tim Bishop said only 11 students were sent home sick Wednesday, after 66 were sent home Tuesday.

“Our nurses saw many fewer kids than the last couple of days,” he said. “So I’m hoping this number continues going in a downward spiral.”

Bishop said in addition to encouraging students to wash their hands frequently and use hand sanitizer, efforts to further curb the spread of germs, such as frequently disinfecting doorknobs and railings, continued.

He said he still doesn’t know why only the middle school has been hit to such a degree. Bishop said it will be interesting to see what happens the rest of the week, and whether Strawberry Park and Soda Creek elementary schools and Steamboat Springs High School will get hit with more absences in a week or two.

The elementary and high schools have only had slightly higher absentee rates typical of this time of year, district officials have said.

– To reach Jack Weinstein, call 871-4203 or e-mail jweinstein@steamboatpilot.com