St. Mary’s first school in Niles to close because of fluPublished 11:35am Tuesday, November 3, 2009
By JESSICA SIEFF
Niles Daily Star
St. Mary’s School on Lincoln Ave. in Niles became the first school in the city to shut down because of the flu.
The decision came Monday to close the school for the rest of the week and Marie Doyle, principal at St. Mary’s, said she weighed the option carefully.
“We have been watching our attendance and our illness rates very closely,” she said Tuesday morning.
Last week, Doyle said those absence rates hovered around 12 to 13 percent. This week, the number shot up to 18 percent, with more children sent home due to illness and even teachers falling ill.
The school operates along certain guidelines and recommendations from the Diocese, which Doyle said suggests a look at closing the school when absence rates sit around 15 percent.
“We’ve had some very severe cases of young children being rushed to the hospital” by their parents for severe upper respiratory problems, Doyle said. She estimated she’d been told of five children whose parents had taken them to the emergency room.
There have also been issues of children who are coming down with the flu and then experiencing a secondary infection, something that also caused school officials concern.
Following Monday’s announcement Doyle said she received just one response from a parent so far – “Thank you for putting our children first,” was that response, Doyle said.
The principal said she felt the opinion might be that the area is not being hit hard by the flu – which health department officials are saying seems to be exclusively the H1N1 virus, adding the seasonal flu hasn’t even begun making the rounds yet.
“In fact I think we really are,” she said.
In some cases, Doyle believes children are coming back to school too soon and the decision to close was made in the hopes that in staying away from each other, there will be time “for the whole thing to calm down and relax a little bit.”
The school plans to reopen Monday, Nov. 9 – “hopefully with everyone being very, very well,” Doyle said.
Maintenance will also do a thorough cleaning of the building during the closure, which might lead the school to extending its year to make up the days.
“If we need to,” Doyle said. “We will.”