By Greg Grisolano
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.
Tony Moehr, director of the Jasper County Health Department, said Avilla officials called the department’s communicable disease staff Tuesday to report that they were closing the school Tuesday and today because of increased absentee rates.
Moehr said school officials cited influenza-like illnesses, with a range of symptoms including fever, headache, and some cases of nausea and vomiting. He said the absentee rate was in the neighborhood of 30 percent, and that the closing is an attempt to reduce the spread of the illnesses.
“The health department didn’t request the closing, but we would agree it’s probably an appropriate action,” he said. “It is a good way to slow the spread. That being said, we would hope these students out of school won’t be congregating at the mall.”
Staff writer Susan Redden contributed to this report.
‘Hanging in there’
The Avilla R-13 School District has pupils in kindergarten through grade eight. Once they graduate eighth grade, students have a choice of where to go to high school, including Sarcoxie and Carthage. Blaine Henningsen, superintendent of Carthage schools, said the district has 24 students from Avilla in the high school. Of those, five were absent Tuesday. Districtwide attendance was 91 percent, so “we’re hanging in there,” he said.
<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
- Carthage, Jasper County
Carthage attorney, reformer of revenue department, dies
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