Flu forces school district to take unique step - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Flu forces school district to take unique step

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Neillsville (WQOW) - A school district takes an extra step to deal with the flu, which is sweeping through its classrooms.

Thursday, 185 students missed school in Neillsville. That's actually down from Wednesday, but is still a major concern. That's why late Thursday afternoon the district and health department decided it would be best to cancel all after school activities until Saturday night. The Clark County Health Department says it was a unique step to take and that it will help to keep the flu from spreading to other districts. 

Administrator John Gaier has been with the Neillsville School District for 27 years, he says, "I don't remember any time where we've had this many kids out due to an illness. We knew it was the flu season, we didn't know it would hit us like this."

Parents have been tying up the lines this week, telling the school their child won't be coming. On Wednesday, more 200 hundred were out, that's one in every five students. 

"As I've checked in with other districts and other areas, they are not being hit the same way we are. They are not seeing the same level of absenteeism, so, we are kind of unique in that perspective," says Gaier.  

The district has added more hand sanitizers in every building as well as asking teachers to wipe down hard surfaces with disinfectant wipes.

Gaier says, "Our custodians have always used them, but to have it in the classroom and using it multiple times, in the classroom by our professional staff is a reaction to what's going on."

Some parents are taking their own precautions. "We have a few parents that have called in and just said, because of the numbers of kids that have been sick, we're going to keep our kids home for the day. As a precautionary measure. And I certainly understand that," says Gaier.  

The district also has a school nurse."She has been diligent about getting contact out to parents, seeing kids that might have any symptoms. And, if they do have symptom, getting a hold of parents and getting those kids home," Gaier says.  

And like most jobs, there are occupational hazards. "Now ironically, she is out with the flu," says Gaier.

The district is working with the Clark County Health Department. So far, they have confirmed a total of nine flu cases within the district. Keep in mind, not all students will necessarily go to the doctor or get tested. 

WQOW News 18 reached out to some other schools in the area to see what they're dealing with.  Chippewa Falls and Eleva say they haven't seen anything serious.  Eau Claire's City-County Health Department says, almost 500 students missed classes on Tuesday.  The number includes schools in Eau Claire, Altoona, Augusta and Fall Creek.

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