From the pages of
The Sublette County Journal
Volume 5, Number 24 - 2/8/01
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Lots of Sick Students Missing School
Sixty-nine Pinedale Elementary students missed class Friday
by Jennifer Binning

For the past several weeks, teachers in Pinedale, Big Piney and Farson have been watching the number of children in their classrooms dwindle down to 80 percent or less of their usual class size. The culprit, say the school administrators, is a nasty upper respiratory infection that may be followed by "flu-like" symptoms.

In both local school districts, the elementary schools have been hit the hardest. Pinedale Elementary has a total enrollment of 292, and last Friday 69 students (or 23%) were home sick. In Big Piney 30 elementary students (or 17 %) were home.

Big Piney Elementary Principal Chris Meiring says that this week seems to be a bit worse than last as far as student illness goes, while absentee rates in the BP Middle School seem to be leveling off. In both the Pinedale and Big Piney high schools, there have only been a handful of illness related absences.

Diane Hansen in Farson said that last week was "terrible" for student illness, and often the students are out of school for a week at a time. This puts a tremendous burden on the teachers to help absent students catch up, and the students suffer as well when they return to class several days behind on their schoolwork. Additionally, several paraprofessionals in the Pinedale School District have contracted the same bug and the elementary school is scrambling to find the substitutes needed to fill those positions. So far, most teachers have been able to remain healthy.

The preschools in the area have also been hit. Last Thursday, the Pinedale Preschool reported 9 sick students absent, and the Parkside Preschool has had a couple of students missing class every day as well.

According to the school nurses in both districts, most children seem to begin with a persistent cough that gets better in a few days. The children then get sick again several days later with anything from high fever and lethargy, to sore throats and upset stomachs.

The schools and preschools have stringent guidelines concerning when parents should keep their children home, but unfortunately the nature of these illnesses sometimes allows a child to come to school, only to have a parent called a few hours later to retrieve a child who seemed just fine that morning.

Dr. Tom Johnston at the Pinedale Clinic notes that if a child seems to be more sick than usual with a cold, or spikes a high fever, parents should not hesitate to bring their children in to be looked at. Also, parents can request a throat swab be performed at the clinics, and if accompanied by a note from the school nurse, the cost of the swabbing will be picked up by the school district.

The best cure is a bit of prevention, and all of the staff at the schools are continuously reminding students to "wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands" and asking parents to make sure their children get lots of sleep, drink lots of water and eat well. It is also recommended that parents heed the guidelines in the student handbooks, and keep their children home until they are symptom free for 24 hours.

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