KELLOGG — Kellogg School District superintendent Woody Woodford has confirmed that all schools within district #391 will close for the remainder of the week in the wake of rising illness related absences. This announcement affects all students and staff at Kellogg High School, Kellogg Middle School, Pinehurst Elementary, and Canyon Elementary Schools.
Woodford explains that the decision to shut down school district wide is based on the guidelines provided by the Panhandle Health District, who have been watching the situation closely.
PHD explains that they begin to monitor schools that go above an eight percent illness related absence rate. If a school reaches or goes above 30 percent for three days in a row, they then recommend to the school district that they close for safety reasons. Ultimately, the school district has the final say on school closures, not PHD.
As of Jan. 10, the district wide absentee rate reached 28 percent. In one building in particular, 15 staff members were reportedly gone with illnesses.
“We are running out of subs!” Woodford told the News-Press.
This news comes just one day after the school district announced that Pinehurst Elementary School (PES) would close for the remainder of the week due to illness related absences.
On Jan. 9, the attendance office at PES indicated that 175 of the 430 total students in the school were absent due to illness. This is roughly 32 percent of the student body.
Following “a deep cleaning of ALL buildings,” Woodford says that the school district will reevaluate the situation next Monday. As of now, students are set to return to school on Jan. 15.
This year’s flu season has already claimed the lives of 13 people in Idaho; 8 coming from the five northern counties.
PHD recommends that all people 6 months of age and older get immunized against flu, saying that the vaccine promotes antibody protection within two weeks.
“We are seeing flu cases throughout northern Idaho,” PHD epidemiologist Jeff Lee said, “Typically, the peak of the flu season is January through March, so it’s not too late to get a flu shot.”
Flu viruses spread when people with flu expel droplets from their mouths or noses while coughing, sneezing or talking. People can also get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth, eyes or nose. In addition to flu vaccination, both health districts also recommend frequent hand washing with warm water and soap, covering coughs and sneezes and staying home if sick.