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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Student Illness Brings Below Average Attendance Across Fort Thomas Schools

Student illness caused attendance at HHS to drop below average levels for three days in a row this week./FTM file

This story has been updated to include Thursday's attendance numbers.

Highlands High School has seen below average attendance this week, as a result of illness among students.

After receiving tips from readers regarding what seemed to be low attendance at the high school earlier this week, FTM has confirmed with Fort Thomas Independent Schools that HHS has seen a 90-92% attendance rate each day this week.

"The high schools worst day was actually Monday, at just around 90%," said Fort Thomas Superintendent Gene Kirchner.

This is roughly 7% lower than average attendance levels at the high school, based on statistics from last year, Kirchner said.

In hard numbers, with an enrollment rate of just below 1,000 students, this means between 70-80 students stayed home each day this week.

Kirchner also told FTM that attendance percentage levels across the district have also been in the low 90s.

As of Thursday's school day, attendance has climbed back up to 94.5% districtwide, with high school attendance still sits at 92.7%.

While officials have not identified a single cause for the increase in student call-outs (probably because there is not a single cause), the impending flu season has already had an impact on school attendance levels across the Tri-state.

The Enquirer reported Wednesday that St. Peter in Chains School in Butler County was forced to close because too many students and faculty were sick.

But even an attendance rate of 90 or 92%, Kirchner said, is still a respectable level of attendance, relative to other schools across Kentucky and the nation and, he said, does not warrant closing.

"Many schools across the country would love to have 92% attendance," he said, adding that last year's average attendance level district-wide was 97%. "It is low by our standards, but not in comparison to other districts."

Kirchner also added that, in the state of Kentucky, a decision to close schools would seldom be based on the attendance rate at one school. "It would be districtwide," he told FTM. "There is no magic number for making that determination."

While it should be re-emphasized that no single illness has been identified as the cause for the dip in attendance, because flu season is upon us, here are a few tips to prevent catching or spreading the flu, from the Center for Disease Control:

- The CDC recommends getting a flu vaccination every year, to prevent contraction of the most common forms of flu. If you are unsure about whether to vaccinate, speak with your family doctor, or read more here.

- Avoid contact with people who are sick, and avoid contact with other people if you begin to feel flu-like symptoms.

- Whether sick with the flu or not, use basic personal hygiene practices, such as washing hands frequently, covering your coughs and sneezes with a tissue, avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth, and clean and disinfect surfaces that may be exposed to germs.

- If you or your child are begin to exhibit flu-like symptoms, the CDC recommends staying home for 24 hours after the fever breaks, except to seek medical care and other necessities. The CDC clarifies that this should be a 24-hour fever-free window after the cessation of fever-reducing medication.

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