Two school districts in eastern Kentucky have canceled in-person classes this week after a rise in illnesses including Covid-19, respiratory viruses and strep among its students and staff, according to local officials.
The Lee County School District, which enrolls just under 900 students, reported an 82% decrease in attendance last Friday, which it attributed to illnesses including flu and colds, Superintendent Earl Ray Shuler said.
Lee County started the school year on August 8. By Monday of this week, the attendance rate had dropped to 81%, with 14 staff members also out sick, Shuler said.
Shuler said all buildings and buses are being sanitized, and all student activities for the remainder of the week are canceled.
Classwork will be done remotely for the remainder of the week. In-person learning returns Monday.
Students who had Covid-19 will be required to wear masks for five days when students return to school, Shuler said.
Magoffin County Schools, which has approximately 1,800 students, has seen its student attendance plummet from 95% last week to 83% on Wednesday, Magoffin County Schools Superintendent Chris Meadows told CNN by phone.
Meadows said the district made the decision Wednesday to cancel classes for the remainder of the week and will have students return to school Monday.
“We just kept seeing a trend,” Meadows said. “It’s not an easy decision, I don’t like to close school.”
“This is the time students are getting acclimated,” Meadows said.
Meadows said some parents reported their children having a virus that typically lasted up to 48 hours.
School staff, including bus drivers and custodians, have also been absent due to the widespread illnesses, Meadows added.
There were about 45 cases of Covid-19 recorded in the district on Monday and Tuesday, Magoffin County Public Health Department Director Pete Shepherd told CNN.
He added that the number of cases didn’t include those who had tested positive at home.
“The flu season has not even started yet,” Shepherd said. “So that’s going to be the next thing around with Covid, (which will) really amp things up again.”
Shepherd said even though people have been experiencing mild symptoms, they should continue to take caution to limit the spread.
“We know everybody’s let their guard down now, you still need to wash your hands, do all the preventable things,” Shepherd said. “Vaccines are the key. They just need to go get their vaccines and do what the CDC recommends as far as hygiene and everything.”