West Collierville Middle School closed the rest of the week for increasing flu-related absences

Updated: Jan. 29, 2020 at 1:25 PM CST
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COLLIERVILLE, Tenn. (WMC) - Wednesday afternoon, parents picked up their children from West Collierville Middle School after the district announced it would be closing the school for the remainder of the week.

The district says 462 students were absent Wednesday out of the 1,286 students enrolled. That’s up from 385 the day before. The district saying many absences were due to flu or flu-like symptoms.

“Well, this is an extremely good district and I know for sure that whatever decision they make is the right decision,” said Elizabeth Covington, parent.

Health officials say the flu is very contagious. The number of students with suspected flu-like symptoms in Collierville tells them two things.

"We likely have a large population that's not vaccinated. The other is that people are continuing to go out into public spaces when they're contagious and infectious to others," said Shelby County Health Department Director Dr. Alisa Haushalter.

Across the state, eight children have died from the flu this season. three in middle Tennessee and five in East Tennessee.

Knox County was among several East Tennessee school districts closed the rest of this week for sickness. In the Mid-South, Hardeman County Schools previously closed for two days due to a spike in flu cases.

“We’ve been back and forth to the doctors office and it’s been so crowded we went back home and we’ve Lysoled the house,” said another parent, Deborah Flood.

Typical absentee numbers are around 50 per day, according to a district spokesperson, who said flu or flu-like symptoms account for the rest.

The West Collierville Middle School is closed Thursday and Friday for students and staff. All other campuses and offices in the district will remain open.

The district’s statement is below.

After three days of increasing student absenteeism at West Collierville Middle School (WCMS) due to flu or flu-like symptoms, district officials have made the decision to close the school for the remainder of this week. All WMCS students and school staff should remain at home tomorrow, January 30, and Friday, January 31. After thorough consideration of attendance trends for both students and teachers and the number of unfilled substitute teacher requests at the school, the superintendent and staff have concluded that this is the most prudent course of action. This period of closure will provide some protection to students and staff from potential flu exposure, while also allowing our facilities services provider additional time to disinfect surfaces throughout the building. All other campuses and offices in Collierville schools will be open on Thursday and Friday.

We reached out to other area districts for the way they are monitoring absences this flu season.

DeSoto County Schools released the following statement:

“The Mississippi Department of Health monitors flu activity across the state and submits a weekly report to local school districts. Desoto County Schools Health Services reviews this report and alerts district administrators of any significant concerns. According to the weekly report, Desoto County has not experienced an increase in flu activity in recent weeks. Desoto County Schools encourages any student with the flu to stay home from school until fever free. Regular cleaning of common surfaces and proper hand washing are also used to prevent the spread of the virus.”

Shelby County School released this statement:

Our district’s attendance has been typical with no excessive absences in the last couple of weeks. Additionally, we have no way of knowing if a student is out due to illness unless they share that personal health information and that would be on a school by school basis.

Health department officials want to encourage people to get vaccinated and stress the importance of staying home if you’re sick.

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