Flu and stomach virus shut down Unicoi County schools

Sue Guinn Legg • Feb 22, 2019 at 11:13 PM

ERWIN — Double-digit absenteeism blamed on flu and stomach virus has prompted Unicoi County schools to cancel classes through Wednesday.

Director of Schools John English announced the three-day cancellation early Friday morning, when student absenteeism reached 13 percent, up from 10.5 percent over the past week.

English said the number of sick students continued to climb Friday morning, with several students leaving school before the previously scheduled half-day of classes dismissed at 11:45 for professional development training for teachers.

The school system had also seen in an increase in illness-related absences among teachers, which created staffing issues at some schools, English said.

Combined with a two-day weekend, he said next week’s cancellations will make for a five-day break that the school system hopes “will give those who have been sick a chance to get well and will give those who have not a chance to avoid getting sick.”

While several other school districts in the immediate area have also canceled classes due to illness during the current flu season, English said, Unicoi County schools had maintained an attendance rate of 90 to 93 percent before the past two weeks of increasing absenteeism.

With permission from the state Department of Education, he said next week’s three days of missed classes will be taken from the school system’s bank of five remaining snow days. Short of the need to use more than two additional snow days, English said, those days will not have to be made up.

Email Sue Guinn Legg at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @sueleggjcpress. Like her on Facebook at facebook.com/sueleggjcpress.