While some middle Tennessee counties have closed schools in recent days due to illness, DeKalb County School officials continue to monitor attendance rates here, but have not seen absenteeism significant enough to warrant closing local schools.
"It (absenteeism) has been running a little higher than normal," said Clay Farler, Attendance Supervisor. "It started picking up, especially at the elementary school last Friday. Today (Monday) its gotten a little worse at Smithville Elementary and at Northside Elementary. Our Pre-K through 5th grade in this part of the county are having the worst absenteeism. Today (Monday) at Northside the latest number I received including the ones that were sent home after arriving at school this morning, they have approximately sixty one students absent. They have 599 students enrolled there so that's slightly greater than ten percent of the students who are absent. At Smithville Elementary, they're at approximately seventy students absent including the ones they've had to send home so that puts them also at a little more than ten percent absenteeism. Their's is probably closer to twelve percent of students absent. Another problem at Northside and Smithville Elementary is we're having several staff members absent too so that is a factor," said Farler.
"At the high school, the attendance is still running well there and its not down very much at the middle school or at DeKalb West School," said Farler. "I'm hearing that there's flu and there's also pneumonia and I'm sure there's strep throat and other things too but we're trying to find out from doctor's offices what the main thing is and whether this is mainly flu or not. As of right now, that's all we know. I don't think Mr.Willoughby would consider closing school at this point but we're trying to keep a close watch on it," he said.
"Most of the time overall county wide we average around ninety three to ninety four percent (of students) present which would mean six to seven percent absentee," said Farler. "It's a higher number (of absenteeism) mainly at these two schools (SES and NES) but its not a great deal higher than what it normally runs. Individual days are up and down. Some days are higher than others but overall we average about ninety three or ninety four percent of students present," he said.
Director of Schools Mark Willoughby said he and other school officials will continue to monitor the situation. "This flu season it looks like it may hit us as it has in the past where it starts out in the elementary school and works its way up," said Willoughby. "It would be nice if we could get through this two week Christmas break to let all this (sickness) die down and not be as contagious and hopefully come back the first of the year and not have to worry about it as much. But right now we know it could explode. We have a lot of people who are sick. Right now our attendance rate is probably close to 92% system-wide so overall system-wide we're looking pretty good in the elementary grades. We wish there wasn't as much sickness in those grades but hopefully it will not continue to spread. We'll just have to wait and see how the flu does. We can't control it. But its not serious enough where we would look at closing schools. We are keeping up with it day by day though and monitoring the situation. We seek medical advice and ask for details or get information from the medical field and ask them if they think it would be wise to close or not close schools," said Willoughby.