Absences may have spiked at Woolridge Elementary last week, but school officials say that the incident is an isolated one. On Monday, 102 of the school’s 807 students were absent; totals climbed to 112 on Tuesday before dropping to 94 on Wednesday and 82 on Thursday.
Many parents would be inclined to worry that the H1N1 virus has hit Chesterfield, but Shawn Smith, Chesterfield County Public Schools’ (CCPS) Assistant Director for Community Relations, says the numbers don’t mean panic is necessary. “When we report absences, it’s the total number of absences,” he explains. “It could be anything from chicken pox to pinkeye to a broken ankle to flu-related symptoms.” The breakdown of reasons for absences at Woolridge has not been released, although the Chesterfield County Health District will most likely be talking to the school to determine the causes.
Although Woolridge absences claimed at least 10 percent of the student body over the last week, averages across the rest of Chesterfield County are staying steady at around four percent.
CCPS remains proactive towards the possible threat of H1N1 in the school system, working closely with the Health Department to determine problem clusters. “We have really redoubled our efforts through vigorous cleaning to desks, rooms, buses, cafeterias, and so on,” says Smith. Letters sent to parents outline some of the steps to take to protect their children and reduce the spread of flu, largely along the lines of keeping up good hygiene practices by covering the nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing and washing hands often with soap and water.