Chillicothe R-2 Superintendent Dr. Roger Barnes said on Monday (Jan. 28) that heavy attendance rate declines during times of mass illness could mean school cancellations across the R-2 district, if such measures are deemed appropriate.
"Our attendance looks better today than it has been," Barnes said, hinting at last week, when this year's early influenza virus strain left many of the district's classrooms depleted of their students, who stayed at home sick instead of coming in to class.
"If we get below 80 percent [attendance within any of our buildings], we really have to evaluate where we're at," Barnes said. "It's whatever you think you can tolerate."
He noted that low attendance rates affect state financial aid received by the district, regardless of sickness associated with such. Because of this, sometimes it becomes more fiscally responsible to cancel classes for a few days until the sickness passes over than to go on with the regularly-scheduled classtimes.
"And we have to worry about student health, too," Barnes said. "That's more of a concern to me than state aid."
Barnes said that on days when sickness might cancel classes, each individual building would participate in "cleaning and disinfecting" to prevent holdover germs from spreading to returning students.
"If it turns out that a majority of our buildings have good attendance, but just one [does not], we will likely not cancel classes," Barnes said. He specified that "there is no magic number" when it comes to R-2's chances of closure due to illness; however, anywhere around the aforementioned 80 percent attendance line is the benchmark from which said decisions would be made. If more than one building is hovering dangerously close to 80 percent attendance, it then becomes a judgement call by the district, regarding whether or not to cancel classes for "a day or two days."
As was reported last week in the C-T, Dewey School hit 83 percent attendance at one point (Monday) due to flu. Central Accelerated, on that same day, was down to 88 percent, and Field Elementary, 92 percent. Chillicothe Middle School stayed at 90 percent attendance throughout the week, while it was reported the Chillicothe High School had sustained normal attendance rates last week.
Monday and Tuesday of this week appeared to follow these same trends. Forty-three of Dewey School's 316 students were out on Monday (86.4 percent attendance), and 46 on Tuesday (85.4 percent) — again, the lowest attendance rates across the district. Field came in at the next lowest, with 87.4 percent attendance on Monday (36 of 285 students absent) and 89.8 percent Tuesday (29 absent). Chillicothe Middle School reported 90 and 91 percent attendance rates for Monday and Tuesday, respectively. Central Accelerated had 17 students absent on Monday (93.7 percent attendance) and 19 students absent on Tuesday (93 percent). Chillicothe High School posted 93 and 93.2 percent attendance rates on Monday and Tuesday.
"[Cancellation is] not something you really want to do, but you have to do what is best for the district," said Barnes. "It's a hard call to make, just like snow days."