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Districts looking to help sick students

Districts looking to help sick students



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NORTHERN UTAH -- The spread of the H1N1 swine flu virus means more students than usual could end up missing extended periods of class time. Some parents whose children already missed school because of the flu tell KSL they've run into problems getting the absences excused and getting their students caught up on their work.

We contacted a number of school districts around the Wasatch to see what is being done to help students who face a week at home sick. Granite School District spokesperson Ben Horsley says they've been telling teachers and administrators to be flexible and that students won't be penalized for missing days when they're sick.

"We certainly don't want sick kids in the classroom, and we don't want parents feeling under the gun or pressured to get their kids back in the classroom so they can catch up or get caught up," said Horsley.

Granite district nurse Janet Bryner says students with the H1N1 flu usually need to be home anywhere from four to seven days. She says in some cases, however, students have been sick even longer than that.

"There are students who have stayed out seven to 10 days," she said.

Bryner says students with the flu should stay home until their symptoms resolve and they no longer have a fever for 24 hours without the aid of medication to bring the fever down. Response from other school districts

Canyons School District:

"Teachers in Canyons School District have been asked to be flexible and work with students who have had to miss school due to illness. We certainly don't want any ill students penalized when we -- and our local health officials, for that matter -- have asked students to stay home when they are sick in order to prevent the spread of illness."

Davis School District:

"Earlier in the year, during one of our regularly scheduled meetings with school principals, our superintendent asked principals to be understanding when it comes to students who are out of school sick for any length of time, and to pass that thought on to teachers as well.

"That was said because while we not only don't want children who are sick to attend school, teachers should be understanding when it comes to giving a student an opportunity to complete work that they may have missed.

"Teachers should always be willing to give students extra time to turn in missed work.

"A practice that seems to be somewhat standard, at least at the elementary level, is that a student will be given three additional days to make up work, for example, if a student has been absent for three days.

"I always encourage parents to establish a relationship with their child's teacher, and to begin establishing that relationship at a Back to School Night. It's there where parents can get a sense of who the teacher is, what his or her expectations may be and how they can work together to help the child or student be successful.

"That relationship can continue during parent-teacher conferences when the parent and teacher can review how the child is progressing. If that relationship has been established, everyone benefits.

"Then, if the child becomes sick, it should be a natural thing for a parent to communicate with the teacher, let them know how sick their child may be, and find out if homework can be picked up."

Provo School District:

"We are allowing students to miss if ill. Students are not required to have a doctor's note. Teachers are sending home homework or waiting till the student comes back and then they are given extended time to complete the work."

Salt Lake School District:

"In Salt Lake City School District, an absence due to illness is considered an excused absence. Students are given the opportunity to make up any work or assignments they may have missed. In the case of extended absences, which are possible with the H1N1 flu, work may be sent home so students can continue to study while not in class. Of course, in preparing for the spread of the H1N1 flu, principals and teachers were alerted to the fact that many students may be affected by this illness and were asked to be as accommodating as possible."

Jordan School District:

"Jordan School District encourages students (and parents) to work with teachers to make up missed work. In primary grades, if a student has been absent more than three days and the parent has not contacted the teacher for make-up work, the teachers will initiate contact with the parents to get them the necessary homework. Some teachers have homework buddies in their classes. Students can call their homework buddy to find out what work they missed.

"In middle school, parents can contact the counseling center. Counselors work with the parents to get missed work from students' teachers.

"All high schools have attendance policies which provide strict guidelines for students missing school. There are numerous avenues to make up work. Parents should contact their specific high school to understand their attendance policy. Some teachers allow students to make up absences by attending special make-up sessions in their own classes.

"Students may appeal their absences to a review committee because of extended absences. Parents and students should work directly with their high school administrations on matters such as this.

"To date, this flu season is the same as past years. Students are missing an average of four or five days which is not unusual.

"Teachers are very good about working with individual students to make up their work. If students feel a specific teacher is not cooperative in providing them with missed work, they are should contact their principal.

  • Jordan District has an H1N1 flu task force that meets frequently to discuss issues such as this. We are tracking our schools daily attendance rates and have asked principals to notify the District when they have 15 percent of students or 15 of staff out ill. That allows us to monitor how widespread the flu is in our area.
  • Jordan District works closely with the Salt Lake Valley Health Department and communicates with them on a weekly basis.
  • Jordan District provide H1N1 flu prevention tips to employees on a regular basis through our online news blog at current.jordandistrict.org.
  • Jordan District encourages parents and employees to visit Jordan District's H1N1 Web site which contains helpful information related to this virus: www.jordandistrict.org/ourstory/news/swineflu.html.

Ogden School District

Q: What is being done to help those students catch back up with their work after an extended absence because of the flu?

A: Teachers are meeting with students in small groups to teach key concepts and extending their learning time by pairing them with a "study buddy."

Q: Are Teachers or administrators being asked to be more lenient about absences because of the flu?

A: Absolutely! Many of our schools have attendance as one of their "School Improvement" goals and we will need to work with the state and the federal government to adjust our goals.

Q: Are you running into any problems because of extended absences?

A: We are worried about students missing tests (UBSCT, etc.)

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E-mail: rjeppesen@ksl.com

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Randall Jeppesen

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