70 kids out sick at Briar

PERKINS TWP. The potential threat of H1N1 swine flu looms in the public consciousness, but it d
susanmcmillan
May 24, 2010

PERKINS TWP.

The potential threat of H1N1 swine flu looms in the public consciousness, but it doesn't seem to have much of an impact on schools so far.

The numbers of children absent from area schools due to illness on Thursday ran as low as 2.3 percent at Margaretta High School and as high as 13 percent at Perkins High School, but administrators said those rates are within normal range for early flu season.

"Things are about normal for this time of year, 5 to 10 percent out," Huron Schools superintendent Fred Fox said.

Margaretta Elementary principal Lynn Hurd said attendance has actually been very good, which she attributed to a new attendance incentive program. Out of 620 students, 24 were out sick on Thursday.

"Right now the only thing we really have that it seems that people are getting are sinus infections," she said.

"As far as the flu and so forth, they're few and far between."

Perkins Schools had some of the higher rates of absent students. In addition to the high school, a double-digit percentage of students were also out sick at Briar Middle School -- perhaps 70 out of 580 students, or 12 percent, principal Stephen Finn said.

"The office has been pretty busy, kids coming down wanting to go home," Finn said. "The thing is, we don't have school (Friday). So hopefully everyone gets healthy."

Only one teacher was out sick on Thursday, he said.

Perkins superintendent Jim Gunner said illness won't be a disruption in the district unless it affects significant numbers of employees or students.

If hundreds of students or dozens of teachers were sick at the same time, Gunner said, then he would have to consult with health officials about whether to close.

"It's not alarming at this point," he said.

Therese Bower, who picked up her sixth-grade son, Sean, at Briar on Thursday, said the rate of absences at the school shows people are being cautious.

"Parents (are) making sure that other children who weren't ill don't get it," she said. "So I think that's a good thing."

Jill Wasiniak, principal of Ontario Elementary in Sandusky, also said caution is pushing attendance down. Of 421 students, 41 were out sick on Thursday.

"I know we have some parents who kept kids out just because they heard there's flu going around," she said.

Huron High School principal John Ruf said the 12 students absent because of illness out of 480 is typical.

"It probably will go up a little bit as (the season) progresses," Ruf said. "It does every year during the winter, during flu season. We don't anticipate anything out of the ordinary."