While flu-related absences forced one La Salle County school to close the rest of the week, most area schools are reporting the normal absentee rates.

Serena Grade School canceled school the remainder of the week after 69 students either called out Monday morning or left school later that day with flu-like symptoms.

"The calls really kept coming in," superintendent Dan Joyce reported, estimating 50 parents reported their children out sick, "and then the students kept coming in (asking to go home)."

Serena has a student body of 205, meaning 34 percent of students called out or went home sick.

After conferring with health officials and the Regional Office of Education, Joyce canceled classes at the grade school for the remainder of the week. Students report back to class Oct. 26.

Joyce also invoked a new law, passed Aug. 25, that lets the district claim full days of attendance during a "public health emergency." Public Act 96-0689 allows districts to close one but not all recognized school buildings after consulting with the county health department, according to JimCarlson, assistant superintendent of the La Salle County Regional Office of Education. Carlson said students and teachers would not be required to make up additional days at the end of the school year, and the school will continue to receive general state aid based on student attendance of the last three days the school was open.

"This is kind of new territory for all of us, and we certainly want to be cognizant of health related issues… We're doing the best we can so that kids can be safe," Carlson said.

As of this morning, however, the outbreak of flu-like symptoms appeared to be mostly isolated to Serena.

Oglesby elementary schools reported a 92-percent attendance rate on Tuesday, down from 97 per-cent last week. That's an increase of 50-60 students staying home, and not all because of possible flu - strep throat, ear aches and other issues also added to the absentee list. Superintendent Michael Pillion said the maintenance staff are working

"We just need help with parents, too, to make sure kids are staying out," if they're sick, Pillion said.

Ottawa elementary reported about 95 percent attendance, despite some students who have influenza A, superintendent Craig Doster said. Influenza A is a type of the flu that has been responsible for seasonal epidemics, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

At La Salle-Peru Township High School, superintendent Craig Carter said attendance over the past four school days has averaged 95 percent.

"Ours is about the same percentage as it has been," Carter said.

Streator High School assistant principal Nick McGurk said the school is seeing attendance figures of 91-93 percent, typical for this time of year.

Waltham Elementary School District reported no absences. Peru elementary reported 96-percent attendance. La Salle elementary officials did not immediately have absentee figures, but said attendance has been averaging 95 percent to 96 percent this year and this morning appeared no different.

"It appears that our absentee numbers are about normal for this time of year," superintendent Dan Marenda said.

Some students have stayed home from Spring Valley schools with "a variety of illnesses," but attendance remains just under 95 percent, superintendent Jim Hermes said.

"Anything from stomach aches to headaches to coughs or what-have-you - just a variety of normal things for this time of year," Hermes said.

Streator school reports H1N1

At Streator Woodland, parents received notification Oct. 16 that one student has a "mild case" of H1N1 flu.

Streator Woodland principal Debra Derby said the district sent a letter and informed parents by phone. Parents are encouraged to keep their children home from school if they display flu symptoms. The district is taking the usual precautions against the flu, which Derby said include additional bathroom/handwashing breaks and having pumps of hand sanitizer in the hallways and classrooms.

Overall, student attendance in the district is down to about 90 percent, which she credits to cases of stomach flu, a separate upper respiratory flu and even severe fall allergies.

"We've just got the numbers that we usually get in January or February, but it's not excessive yet," Derbysaid. "The season just hit early."


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