TRI-CITIES, TN (WJHL) – Officials with Sullivan County, Hawkins County and Greene County said schools will be closed for parts of this week. Sullivan and Hawkins County schools will be closed on Monday and Tuesday; Greene County schools will be closed on Monday.
Sullivan County Director of Schools Evelyn Rafalowski told News Channel 11 increase in illnesses seemed to be concentrated to the northern and eastern parts of the county. She said Sullivan East High and Sullivan North High had the highest number of absences in the school system on Friday.
Rafalowski said attendance has fluctuated all week. They saw an improvement on Thursday, but the attendance decline again on Friday.
Hawkins County Schools Director Steve Starnes told News Channel 11 the schools have been battling a variety of illnesses including the flu, stomach virus, sinusitis and strep throat.
We’re told the illnesses have affected the student body, faculty, and staff. Starnes said some of their schools had attendance on Friday to dip to around 80%.
“We just want to give people a chance to try to fight off the sickness, we’ve had several different types of illness not just flu,” said Starnes. “Obviously, the flu takes a little longer to recover, but the viral 24-48 hour stuff, strep throat, bronchitis, sinusitis – those kind of things, they usually tend to get over those a little quicker. So, if we can give a few days off here people will stay in and take care of themselves and we hope we can get back to business there on Wednesday.”
Hylton said the hospital urgent care clinic has extended hours.
“Make sure you wash your hands, that is the number one way to prevent the spread of illness. Flu shot is really good to help prevent it,” Hylton said.
Starnes told News Channel 11 they saw an increase in the number of staff members calling out sick and they did not have the substitute staff to support the absences.
“We’ve seen our attendance rates continue to fall this week,” said Starnes. “We had a spike in staff attendance today and we just felt like it had gotten to the point where we needed to look at taking a few days off if we could stem the flow of this. It seems to be coming from the east to west in our county, and I know that some of our sister systems to the east – Knox County, Granger county [were] closed Monday and Tuesday. Hamblen was closed Thursday and Friday. So we feel like it’s worked its way toward us.”
Starnes says his staff has been continuing to monitor students for any sort of illness. The school system has a procedure in place, if a child is running a temperature.
“If their temperature is over 100, we figure they’re contagious, at that point — or throwing up, diarrhea, unexplained rashes we would send students home and we try to have parents do the same thing,” said Starnes.
On Friday evening, Greene County Director of Schools David McLain said the school system would be closed on Monday due to the stomach virus and strep throat.
McLain said the west end of the county has been hit the worst, with 160 students out sick at West Greene High School.
He added that 10 percent of the students and 10 percent of the faculty in Greene County were absent from school on Friday.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s website shows the Volunteer State in red, indicating the highest activity level for flue like illnesses. Virginia is not too far behind in dark orange, also in the high activity range.
News Channel 11 is following this story. We’ll post more details as they become available.