On school closures: Cassia schools talk health procedures

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DECLO, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) - Some schools across southern Idaho are closed due to students and staff getting sick. KMVT talked to the Cassia County School District about their procedures and when it is time to shut down a school because of sickness.

Superintendent Jim Shank said they look at the number of students enrolled in the school. If about 32 percent of students are absent because they are sick, they then will look at all the factors and make a decision to close or stay open.

"We have five municipalities in Cassia School Districts, so there might be an impact in Declo that’s different than Burley," he said. "So, we just kind of use it as an overarching guide to our decision making process and that’s what’s been used in the past and it seems like a reasonable figure."

While they are prepared if teachers even call out sick, they're only as prepared as they can be, Shank said. There are only so many substitutes who work within the school district, and they may be all working or also out sick.

Kevin Lloyd, the principal of Declo Elementary, said they've seen parents call out their kids sick about daily.

"We’ve had some sick kiddos for the last two weeks. I would say we had an uptick. And one day, I think the highest we had here was 70 kids sick, or rather 70 kids absent and a lot of the reasons were cause of sickness," he explained.

Lloyd said it's a joint effort of the school staff to keep the cold and flu at bay and from spreading.

"You'll see teachers sanitizing all the time in their classrooms," he said.

School nurse Laurie Stimpson said they also recommend sanitizing the door knobs of classrooms as well.

"Sometimes the kids bring Clorox wipes and wash the desks off in between or after projects," she said.

Stimpson recommends that if a student has a fever, they should not come to school for 24 hours after the fever breaks.

"We recommend that the parents try to get the kids adequate rest and nutrition because if their body Is healthy, they can sometimes fight off these viruses or the cold and flu," she continued. "We recommend eating healthy, getting plenty of rest and exercise. Drinking lots of fluids and that will help also."

Lloyd said when a student is sick, they would like to know, along with what they are sick with.

"If we can actually catch wind of something more serious, such as hand foot mouth disease, then we can notify parents as well," he said. "We can sanitize and make it a greater effort."

While calling a kid out sick may be a big deal, it's best to do so the germs don't spread to other kids.

"A lot of times the principals and teachers, they want kids to come and we don’t want those kids gone, but at the same time when we push that too much, it probably gets the sickness more,'" he said. "So, instead of getting rid of it, we have it for longer."

Closing down school because of a health concern is a serious matter the school district doesn't take lightly.

"We’re very, very careful when it comes to keeping schools open and closed. Obviously our public has an expectation that we’re going to educate our kids and we take that seriously," Shank continued. "But, knowing there are barriers to learning and illness is one of those, we’re going to do the things we think are best in terms of making that decision."

He added that they look at other school districts who close down due to illnesses.

"We watch it. It’s important to know what’s going on around you," he said.

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