The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Carthage, Jasper County

October 21, 2009

<img src="http://www.joplinglobeonline.com/images/zope/extra.gif" border=0> Avilla school closes <font color="#ff0000">w/ school closure form</font>

By Greg Grisolano

ggrisolano@joplinglobe.com

AVILLA, Mo. — Stacy Tweedy said she got a phone call from the Avilla R-13 School District at around 5 p.m. Monday. The recorded message stated that the school would be closed Tuesday and today because of a large number of illness-related absences.

Tweedy’s sons, ages 12 and 10, were playing in the yard Tuesday afternoon.

“There were 13 kids gone out of my son’s fourth-grade class on Monday,” she said. “There’s only 22 in the whole class.”

Neither Principal Scott Blake nor board president Kyle Slichenmeyer could be reached for comment Tuesday. A clerical worker answered the schoolhouse door on Tuesday and confirmed that the school was closed because of illnesses, but she said she could not provide any other information.

Officials with Missouri’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education said they received a copy of a report that the district forwarded to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, notifying the state of the closing.

The district reported 50 absences out of 164 students, according to Jim Morris, a spokesman for the state education department.

Morris said the department has not previously tried to track school closings, but that concern over the impact of the H1N1 flu virus prompted a change in policy this year.

“The publicity and the concern around the H1N1 flu has created a little different environment this year, because the flu is particularly dangerous around young children,” he said. “So we’re trying to monitor the situation. If there’s a serious widespread or prolonged outbreak, the state may have to take some action because schools could be affected in a variety of ways.”

Morris said 11 school districts and two state-run schools for the disabled have closed for a while this year because of what has been presumed to be H1N1 outbreaks. He said the Avilla decision is the first closing in Southwest Missouri.

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Carthage, Jasper County