Flu Bug Empties Classrooms

Thursday, February 15th 2007, 9:58 am
By: News On 6

The flu continues to plague many Tulsa area schools. One of the biggest drops in attendance this week was in Skiatook, where 400 kids were absent on Tuesday. That's more than 15 percent of total enrollment.

News On 6 anchor Scott Thompson reports when 400 Skiatook students are sick at one time, you know there is a problem.

The state Department of Education says Oklahoma has been hit especially hard this year. Some superintendents worry it will hurt their budgets. "We were being optimistic that maybe it wouldn't hit so hard but nope, it's hit," says Dr. Donna Krutka. It's almost a month later than they expected, but doctors say the flu is here. They say Oklahoma's ice storm is partially to blame. No classes and no ball games meant no chance to spread the virus.

Now that school's back in session, Dr. Krutka says the flu bug is back making its rounds. "I think lots of schools have had 20 to 30 go out at a time." Flu safety signs are in every hallway at many schools. Still, 1 out of every 10 Tulsa area student has been hit with the flu.

Skiatook schools are in flu mode right now, with nurses encouraging extra steps to keep the flu from spreading. This week, almost 16 percent of the Skiatook’s student body stayed home sick. Thursday, 300 students were out. Skiatook School Superintendent Gary Johnson says he's even considered canceling school if absenteeism kept rising. "Bottom line is that the kids don't want to be sick either they want to be here and if they're out of school, they want to be on vacation, not because they're sick."

Dwindling attendance rates could impact the district's bottom line. While most state money is based on enrollment, funding for textbooks, professional development, and alternative education are all tied to attendance. The state Department of Education tells the News On 6, the law that dictates how education money is divided up won't allow for any exceptions, including low attendance due to flu.

Schools with lots of kids out sick won't notice any changes in funding until July, which is when their yearly averages are calculated.

To find out ways you can prevent the spread of the flu, check out ' Don't Bug Me.'