Ingram Elementary School is still on track to reopen today following an outbreak of illness that left more than 30 percent of students absent on Monday, according to the district’s superintendent.
Although there also was an uptick of illness at Ingram ISD’s middle school and high school, the increase was slight and it was “business as usual” Wednesday, said Bobby Templeton, Ingram ISD superintendent. It’s not known whether most of the people going home sick had the flu, as school medical staff do not issue diagnoses and people don’t always get a doctor’s confirmation, he said.
“A lot of times they don’t go to the doctor, they just stay home and get better on their own,” Templeton said. “A lot of kids may have the flu, but they don’t know it and we don’t know it.”
The closure of the elementary school that lasted Tuesday and Wednesday gave staff time to deep clean the campus and hopefully allowed students and staff to recover, Templeton said. Students and staff confirmed to have fever symptoms are prohibited by policy from returning to campus until they are fever-free for 24 hours. Officials made the decision to close the school as more students and staff began going home sick on Monday, Templeton said. There were "excessive absences," some confirmed cases of flu and strep, and a number of children were sent home Monday due to fever symptoms, said Ingram Elementary School Principal Donna Jenschke.
“Nobody in the school takes closing school lightly, because we know how much of an imposition it is on families, but our first priority is keeping everybody safe,” Templeton said.
The district had conducted a customary deep cleaning over Christmas break, but continued it every evening at the elementary school due to all the children getting sick over the break, Jenschke said.
“We ask parents that (their children) stay home for 24 hours or until their fever subsides,” Templeton said.
Kerrville ISD spokeswoman Lauren Jette said attendance rates at the district have been normal, but officials are monitoring the number of confirmed cases of the flu. The district will step up its own cleaning efforts if there is more than one reported flu case per classroom, but the janitorial staff is performing in-depth cleaning since the beginning of flu season, she said.
A handful of preschools and daycares indicated they’d had an increase in various illnesses among children in recent weeks. Staff at a daycare in Kerrville said it was worse about two years ago, and there was an uptick in sickness among school-age children this year just before Christmas, which has since died down. Staff at another daycare in Kerrville said there have been more absences this year for sickness and particularly in recent weeks, including a flu confirmation on Wednesday. Staff at a daycare outside Kerrville reported five cases of illness in the last two weeks but said it’s not clear whether it’s been worse than last year.
Scott Russell, director of Children’s Corner Preschool in Kerrville, said there were about 25 children out sick over about a three-week period before Christmas, mostly with flu and strep.
“It’s been a mess,” Russell said. “I feel this year was worse than it was last year, no question.”
He said staff have been stressing cleanliness and have been disinfecting the facility, and now the place “is in good shape.” He urged parents to keep their kids at home when they’re sick.
“We can't have that, especially in these enclosed environments,” Russell said.
According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, influenza activity is high across the state for the most recent reporting period, Dec. 29, 2019 to Jan. 4. But compared to the previous period, the percentage of specimens testing positive for influenza reported by hospital laboratories decreased, and the percentage of patient visits due to influenza-like illness has decreased. No influenza-associated pediatric deaths were reported.