Archive for Wednesday, January 22, 2003

Virus hits Baldwin schools hard

January 22, 2003

The Baldwin School District expects to a have few sick students throughout the winter months, but last week proved to be more than the normal few.

Several hundred students were absent from school last week because of a flu virus that has been sweeping through the district.

"They're not just missing one or two days," Carrie Enick, the Baldwin High School and Baldwin Junior High School nurse, said. "They're usually out five to six days with this."

Enick said the district noticed an increase in sick students about two weeks ago, but it didn't really become a problem until last week.

"There was one day when 44 percent of the junior high was absent," she said.

The three schools in town have been hit the hardest, she said. The outlying elementary schools have yet to be affected too much by the flu bug.

Enick said it's not uncommon to have a string of sick students each year, but this latest outbreak is a little different.

"It's larger than average," she said. "We usually have a period of two to three weeks of this, but it seems to have affected more students."

There were so many sick students that Supt. James White said the district considered canceling school.

"It's been kind of a tough time with our youngsters sick," White said. "So on Thursday, we considered not having school Friday to give the kids a longer break.

"But we called the health department and they said if we couldn't be out 10 to 14 days, it probably wouldn't help."

Enick said it was too hard to know if the extra time off would have helped.

"This is a virus," she said. "We don't know how long we would have to keep the kids separated because we don't know the incubation period of this particular virus."

But if there's a bright side to the virus, Enick said it's the fact that it doesn't seem to be affecting the faculty and staff.

"A few adults got it, but not to the percentage of the kids," she said. "It doesn't seem to get the adults too bad."

Which is a good thing. She said if the percentage of faculty and staff sick was as much as the students, school would have to be canceled because there wouldn't be enough substitute teachers to take over.

But the students won't be sick forever. Enick said the virus will just have to run its course. Until then, schools are taking extra time on talking to students about washing hands and other ways to try to stay healthy.

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