Flu outbreak to blame for record absences

WARRENSBURG - A quarter of the local junior-senior high school population of 400 was absent from school Monday and Tuesday - most all sick with flu symptoms, Warrensburg Central School officials said.

About one-tenth of the Warrensburg Elementary School children were also out with similar maladies.

"We've got about 145 kids out in total, and most all of them are demonstrating flu-like symptoms including fever," Superintendent of Schools Tim Lawson said Tuesday.

This mass absence from school due to illness is the worst since 1996 when he took over the school's top job.

Lawson said that his administration is now in close consultation concerning the apparent flu outbreak with state and county health departments, as well as regional education officials and the local school board.

There have been casual reports that a few of the absent students are afflicted with the H1N1 virus, but these reports from parents have not been verified.

Despite rumors in the community, the school was not near shutting down on Monday, and it won't take such a drastic action unless absences increase substantially from these record levels, he said.

"We're responsible for maintaining a safe learning environment and instructional flow, and we've been advised to maintain normal functioning," he said.

Lawson said that he's been assured by health officials that whether the school closes or not, is not likely to effect how the outbreak spreads through the community.

Lawson predicted that the low attendance levels at the Warrensburg schools will persist for a week or more, as more students become ill, and ill ones get healthy.

He urged that ill students stay home at least five days, or until their body temperatures are back to normal for at least 24 hours and symptoms have disappeared.

Also, the district sent out a letter Friday to parents detailing how their families can best avoid catching or spreading the flu.

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