H1N1 virus poses threat to MEAPPublished 9:26am Wednesday, October 14, 2009
By JESSICA SIEFF
Niles Daily Star
Even before the school year started, parents, health and school officials were prepared for the possibility of a number of cases of the H1N1 virus.
But the virus along with the standard seasonal flu is producing a new concern for some school officials in the state of Michigan, including Niles Community Schools – as many students are being kept home sick and schools statewide begin three weeks of Michigan Education Assessment Program (MEAP) testing.
Niles Community Schools Superintendent Doug Law said Tuesday that officials are seeing “higher than normal absenteeism,” an increase of about 5 to 10 percent.
There have been “suspected cases” of H1N1, Law said and he added “we seem to have a high number of parents calling in wanting to know,” more about the situation.
Students are staying home and those falling ill are being tested for H1N1, but Law said that no cases of that virus have been confirmed as of yet by the Berrien County Health Department.
In a letter being drafted to parents, Law said the district remains in regular contact with the health department and are monitoring the situation.
Still, sick students during MEAP testing is a “concern,” Law said.
Over the next three weeks students will spend between 4 to 8 hours on designated statewide testing.
“A lot rides on this,” Law said “These are really, really important days for us.”
During MEAP there are specific days set aside for testing of certain subjects and specific days set aside for make-up testing should a student be absent on the day of the test.
“By and large the virus dies relatively quickly,” Law said.
But there remains a concern of what it could mean for the district if too many kids are still sick and miss their make up day.
“Hopefully they’ll be back in time for the make-up. If they miss the make-up it’s done and that’s the big concern,” he said.
The state requires 95 percent of students take the MEAP exams or the district is cited.
Law said he put a call into the Department of Education to inquire about what could be done of too many students are out ill and can not meet the make-up exam.
The flu isn’t just affecting students. There is an increase in teacher absenteeism as well, Law said, as many of them are home taking care of their own ill children.
Commenting on whether or not the district would close a school due to cases of H1N1, Law said it was the recommendation by the Center for Disease Control not to take such an action.
Schools are equipped with hand sanitizer and stressing the importance of keeping mouths covered and watching that germs not be spread in order to protect against seasonal or H1N1 flu.
The district also directed parents to www.flu.org to find out more information on H1N1 and what can be done to keep kids for getting sick.