Illness a concern this school year |

Illness a concern this school year

William Ferchland

Jim Grant / Tahoe Daily Tribune / Bijou Community School kindergartner Alan Medina washes his hands in class.

With flu season around the corner and Lake Tahoe Unified School District still battling declining enrollment and substitute shortages, school officials are reminding students to frequently wash their hands.

Sick students pose threats to several programs and issues in the district, which is experiencing a shortage of substitute teachers and implementing strategies to increase attendance rates.

“Obviously to increase attendance you need to have healthy students and a sick student can quickly multiply to many sick students,” said school board president Wendy David.

State money is given to districts based on attendance rates. Before the start of the school year the district’s attendance rate was 92.7 percent. A program was instituted to reward students who consistently attend school.

Each percentage point represents $200,000 in state money. The district, which has lost $5.5 million in the past years primarily due to declining enrollment, hopes to achieve an average attendance rate of 97 percent.

A jump of 4 percentage points would equal an extra $800,000.

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In addition, last month the school board voted to increase pay and temporarily suspend passage of the California Basic Skills Test for substitute teachers.

With the possibility of the flu spreading to staff members, including teachers, the pool of available substitute teachers could thin.

Throw in the demands for student academic achievement and students can rarely afford to miss numerous school days.

“We want them healthy and we want them there,” said Superintendent James Tarwater, who mentioned sore throats and coughs have been circulating around the schools.

In collaboration with the California Department of Health Services, the state department of education announced a “Wash Your Hands” campaign.

“By washing hands often, students can increase their chance of avoiding the flu, so they can stay healthy, stay in school and keep learning,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell said. “It is important to remind students about simple steps they can take to protect their health so schools will have fewer sick days for students and teachers.

“(Last week) the president announced federal plans to prevent the possible pandemic of the bird flu,” O’Connell added. “Although the bird flu isn’t in the U.S. right now, the usual flu season is just about to start, and the very best way to avoid catching colds and any strain of the flu is to take preventive measures.”

Dr. Kathryn Stevenson from Job’s Peak Pediatrics said hand washing is “one of the best ways” to prevent the spread of germs.

“We do recommend the flu shot for all children, so parents should check with their child’s pediatrician on the availability of a flu shot,” Stevenson said.

The doctor added immunizations are available at Job’s Peak Pediatrics.

Be Healthy

Below are tips for students to avoid spreading the cold and the flu

— Wash your hands often with soap and water or hand sanitizer to help protect yourself from germs and viruses. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.

— When coughing or sneezing, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue, your sleeve or your elbow.

— Stay fit by eating healthy foods, drinking plenty of water, exercising regularly and getting plenty of rest.

— Keep up-to-date with other immunizations.

— If you become sick, stay home to avoid spreading germs to others.

Source: California Department of Education