Franklin to disinfect buildings, buses after dozens of flu cases close schools

It was the first time in 18 years of working as a schools superintendent that Michael Sander had to cancel classes due to the flu.

Sander, who has been Franklin’s superintendent for the past six years, said the number of teachers and staff calling off work Tuesday night and the number of people who were absent or sent home on Monday and Tuesday forced him to call off classes for Wednesday and today. Classes were previously not scheduled for Friday.

As of 6 p.m. Tuesday, Sander already had 14 teachers and seven bus drivers call off sick for Wednesday.

He said Tuesday’s attendance at Pennyroyal Elementary was about 81 percent, and 15 students were sent home sick. At the Hampton Bennett Early Childhood Center, which also houses the district’s central administrative offices, attendance was at 80 percent.

“This does not count early dismissals for illness of which we had a significant number yesterday and we weren’t having that last week,” Sander said.

Sander said one teacher in the district had 10 students show up for class, only to send five of them home sick later in the school day.

He said the district’s attendance rate is normally about 95 percent and that attendance was at 90.9 percent last week.

The district has 2,884 students, 199 certified staff and 129 classified staff, which includes 22 bus drivers. In addition, the district operates 20 buses and two vans to transport students each day. Sander said he was pulling people with Commercial Driver Licenses off their regular jobs to help drive the buses.

“We’re going to hit it hard to disinfect and kill the germs in the buildings and buses,” Sander said. “Custodians will be using sanitizers to clean all of the touch points that students might touch such as door knobs, desks, etc. It takes about four days to do a thorough cleaning.”

Among districts closed recently for high levels of illness were Centerville Schools, East Dayton Christian School, Wenzler Daycare and Learning Center and Wilmington Schools in Clinton County.

The new flu numbers released Friday show 3,642 Ohioans were hospitalized this flu season as of Jan. 26, up from the prior weekly report’s count of 3,034 hospitalizations.

“In regards to the school closure, the decision to close is up to the individual school based on many considerations, which is unique to each school,” said Shelly Norton, Warren County Combined Health District spokeswoman.

She said the health district still has flu vaccine available and residents can call for an appointment at 513-695-1229. Norton said the district is also educating the community on flu prevention by getting vaccinated, hand-washing, covering your cough, and staying home if you are ill. More flu prevention information can be found at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

Jackie Phillips, Middletown health commissioner, said she received a few calls from preschools, day care centers and some K-12 schools looking for a threshold to determine whether to cancel school or not.

“You have to look at how healthy your staff, make sure the teacher/student ratio is workable, do a deep cleaning and make sure everyone has time to rest and get well,” Phillips said. “If you have to close down, do it toward the weekend to do a deep cleaning.”

She said there has been an uptick on the number of calls her office has received even though this has been a mild winter.

Kay Farrar, Hamilton city health commissioner, said her office has observed seeing a rough year in general and that the Hamilton schools have seen an 11 percent absentee rate due to the flu. Farrar said in addition to tracking the number of hospitalizations, her department also tracks visits to emergency rooms and urgent cares during flu seasons which sees a lot of people with coughs and fevers.

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