Superintendent explains process of school closings for illness

Published 7:59 am Thursday, March 16, 2017

 Michael Rowe

Lincoln County Superintendent
During the winter months, school districts receive emails and phone calls from parents and other stakeholders regarding sick children in schools and increased absences. They often ask if we are going to call off school. Here is some information regarding school closures for illness.
• There is no state or health guidelines for deciding when or if a school district should close because of illness among staff or students. The district makes the decision after thorough monitoring of both student and staff attendance rates.
• Districts typically close for illness because they have staff shortages that may prevent the safe and effective teaching of students.
• In many cases the illnesses represent a mixed picture of conditions (strep infections, upper respiratory infections, bronchitis, influenza, gastrointestinal infections, etc.), all of which have different incubation periods, different levels of contagiousness, and different lengths of symptoms.
• Since many illnesses have incubation periods of 1-3 days, most students have been exposed by the time a substantial illness has been identified. It would take much longer than closing a school for 1-2 days to break a contagious cycle, and only then if all the students stayed at home and were not permitted to attend alternative care settings, extracurricular events or be out in the community (essentially isolation and quarantine).
• The best measures a district can take during illness events are good infection control practices: advocating good hand washing and appropriate use of hand sanitizers, respiratory etiquette, disposal of throw away tissues, and staying home when ill.
For more information regarding infection control, do not hesitate to contact the Kentucky Department for Public Health at (888) 973-7678.
With attendance rates hovering near 94%, we are not considering the cancellation of school at this time. However, we are incorporating good infection control practices for our students.