Illness closes doors at Worthington Christian School
WORTHINGTON -- With more than 32 percent of the student body reported sick with flu and flu-like symptoms, Worthington Christian School closed its doors Thursday and will keep them shut today.
Staff at the school first noticed large numbers of students absent Monday with increasingly higher numbers as the week progressed.
"We had eight out on Monday, 11 on Tuesday, and 18 Wednesday," Principal Lori Eekhoff said about the student body of 60.
One classroom had more than 50 percent of the students and the teacher home sick.
As of Thursday, the school had four students with confirmed cases of influenza, none of whom have been hospitalized.
The school does not have a policy in place for situations like this, Eekhoff said.
Eekhoff added the percentage of students absent, however, was determined to be high enough to consider closing the school. She said she spoke with the school nurse to get her opinion and professional knowledge, then spoke with each of the school board members.
Eventually, the school decided to be proactive about keeping the students safe. The decision to close the school for the rest of the week was made Wednesday evening.
Eekhoff said school officials resolved to inform parents in advance about the school closure to allow them time to make other childcare arrangements, if needed.
"It was not an easy decision to make, but we felt that we needed to be proactive," Eekhoff said.
Surfaces within the school are being disinfected, and classes are scheduled to resume on Monday.
"We are keeping our students' best interests at heart," Eekhoff said. "Trying to keep everyone happy and healthy is the most important thing."
While Worthington District 518 schools have also had students stay home due to illness in recent days, there haven't been any unusual increases in absences, said Superintendent John Landgaard.
"We do have some kids home with the flu or other illness," Landgaard said.
According to the Minnesota Department of Health, more than 1,121 people have been hospitalized with influenza in the state, with 27 influenza-related deaths.
A total of 138 schools have reported outbreaks of influenza with an absent rate of 5 percent or more of the total enrollment, or three or more students with influenza reported absent from the same elementary classroom.
Daily Globe Reporter Alyson Buschena may be reached at 376-7322.