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School officials watch flu cases: One system cancels classes all week, hospital issues statement

By L.A. Story

Daily Corinthian

School absenteeism due to illness has reached a critical point in one nearby school district and local school officials say they are keeping a close eye on their own absentee numbers.

Greg Martin, director of McNairy County Schools, publicly announced Monday that "due to sickness and the significant increase of students checking out sick across the county," McNairy County schools would be cancelled for the remainder of this week.

McNairy County teachers have been asked to report to their schools and assist staff in sanitizing their classrooms and buildings.

Magnolia Regional Health Center also issued a public policy announcement Wednesday due to a rise in flu cases.

The MRHC announcement stated, "Due to high volumes of the flu, only one visitor is allowed per patient. No visitors under the age of 12 are allowed at this time."

With the rise in cases of the flu, Corinth and Alcorn School District officials say they are keeping an eye on their own absentee numbers.

Currently, both schools report only a slight rise in absentees that is consistent but not alarming at this point, which is good news.

"Our attendance is off a little, about one to two percent less than what it ran last month, except for the middle school. That's where we're seeing the greatest absentees," said Corinth School District Superintendent Lee Childress.

Alcorn School District numbers are "a little high," but not alarming for this time of year, according to ASD Assistant Superintendent Ritchie Williams.

"The good news right now is that we have about a 91 percent attendance across the district. It's a little high for this time of year, but not tremendously high," said Williams. "Mr. Mitchell and I talked about it yesterday. With nine percent out, it's not terrible. And, it is something we're going to watch closely."

He added that there is no set absentee percentage which would automatically call for closing the schools, and he and ASD Superintendent Larry Mitchell will continue to monitor the situation.

Williams said school nurses recently sent home a letter to parents reminding them of symptoms to look for in regard to illness.

"It doesn't hurt to remind people what to look for and we always preach about keeping your hands washed," said Williams. "Every school in the district is watching the situation and you want to do what is best. You need to take it seriously."