UTICA—There have been a lot of sick Broncos at Centennial Public Schools in recent days – enough to necessitate canceling regular Wednesday and Thursday classes.
“I’ve been a superintendent for 25 years, and this is the most severe I’ve seen,” said Centennial Public Schools Superintendent Tim DeWaard. “Last Friday [February 7] we had about 20% of our kids out. Today [February 11] we’re probably a little higher than 20%.”
“When you start seeing anywhere from 10%-30% of the kids out, the schools are very aware. It’s really the call of the administration,” said Laura McDougall, Executive Director of Four Corners Health Department, which serves the counties of Polk, Butler, York and Seward. “Hypothetically you have all the kids go home and rest.”
Classes at Centennial have been cancelled for Wednesday, Feb. 12 and Thursday, Feb. 13. DeWaard noted that Wednesday and Thursday were already scheduled early dismissals because of parent-teacher conferences, but extra time off might help alleviate what ails Centennial students.
“We hope this will allow kids to be home,” DeWaard said.
At press time Tuesday, parent-teacher conferences’ child care, youth practices at Centennial and a college fair scheduled for Wednesday have all been cancelled. However, parent-teacher conferences themselves, high school basketball games, and evening music and athletic practices were still to be run as scheduled.
During the campus’s relative down time, the school will be thoroughly disinfected, DeWaard said. “Our custodians have done a great job; it’s not that they haven’t done their job.” He said Centennial’s facilities will undergo an extra “deep cleaning.”
While influenza has made an appearance at Centennial, there is not necessarily a single illness causing the school grief DeWaard said. “It’s not just one thing we’re seeing.” Fevers and general illnesses are showing up amongst the student body. Illness-wise, McDougall said Four Corners has seen a common offending bug in their service area. “One of the big things we’re seeing going around is influenza,” McDougall said.
McDougall mentioned basic germ prevention methods: washing hands, coughing into one’s arm – not hand, not sharing things like water bottles and keeping children with fevers home for an additional 24 hours after a fever subsides. Even considering these methods and parameters, McDougall said schools have specific ways to handle keeping students at home. “Every school has policies around when they want kids to be home. Don’t be afraid to call the [school] office,” she said. “If you’re not sure, definitely talk to your school; they’ll give you clarity what to do.”