Greenfield Exempted Village School District (GEVSD) Superintendent Quincey Gray told The Times-Gazette custodial and maintenance staff spent Friday cleaning the district’s buildings and buses in preparation for students’ return to class on Monday.
The Greenfield Exempted Village School District closed on Friday due to “widespread cases of influenza,” according to a post on the district’s Facebook page.
The post added that all Friday through Sunday events and practices were also cancelled.
“On Thursday, there were a number of students who were being sent home,” Gray said Monday. “That, of course, means you have sick kids here, you have kids who have been exposed, you have germs — it just was a good time to regroup and work with the health department on some strategies that would be effective.”
But students weren’t the only ones missing school.
“We also had staff members who were affected,” Gray said.
Gray identified other districts’ — like Miami Trace Local and Fairfield Local — recent decisions to close and a meeting with the health department school nurse Katie Pryor attended on Thursday as factors that also contributed to the decision to close the district and cancel extracurricular activities.
On Friday, GEVSD’s custodial and maintenance staff cleaned the buildings and buses with products and strategies the health department recommended.
“Our custodial and maintenance staff and our nurse really worked diligently to have a plan in place to be able to make sure the school was ready for everyone to come back today,” Gray said.
When school and extracurricular activities resumed on Monday, Gray said attendance increased.
“As a district, we improved by two percentage points, so it was really a distinct difference,” Gray said.
“We still encourage parents, if their child is ill, to not send them,” Gray said. “That’s tough sometimes for families because parents work, but even if they don’t have the flu, if they’re sick they really shouldn’t be here at school. In the high school, there is an incentive to have that perfect attendance, but at the same time, you have to take care of your health.”
Gray added that the district is partnering with the health department on Tuesday to offer a clinic for students and guardians.
“Middle school and high school students just have to bring the consent form back and they don’t have to have a guardian present, but elementary kids do have to have a guardian present,” Gray said. “Guardians also can get a shot. We’re just trying to make that option available to people.”
Highland County Health Commissioner Jared Warner told The Times-Gazette Friday that Fairfield Local will also have a flu clinic for students and community members.
Fairfield Local’s website stated that 20 percent of its elementary students were absent on Jan. 16, and middle school and high school absences continued to rise. Classes resumed on Tuesday following Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
“Fairfield’s elementary absences have gone down; they’ve had a little bit of increase in their middle school and high school. We invited Greenfield because we knew they were having some of the same problems,” Warner said Friday. “We talked through sanitation practices and CDC guidelines for cleaning rooms. The schools really are doing a great job. They’re doing the right level of cleaning and sanitation. They know their stuff, and they’re working hard at it, so hats off to them.”
Warner said there was a significant spike in flu cases in December.
“We were pretty on-track with the five-year average up until the last week in December, when we saw a really significant spike in Ohio in flu cases really increasing a lot more than what we normally see,” Warner said. “Last year we had a weird season where the second spike of the flu was bigger than the first, so you never know what’s going to come down.”
Warner said there have been seven flu-related hospitalizations in Highland County this flu season, which began around Thanksgiving. He added that it’s probable that there were others that weren’t officially categorized as flu-related.
Warner encouraged people to get their flu vaccines.
”It’s quite possible that somebody could get Influenza B, be sick for a week, get better, and then get Influenza A afterward,” Warner said Friday. “You can get sick multiple times from the flu, depending on what strains are circulating. It’s still really important to get your vaccine. Not only is it less likely that you’ll get the flu in the first place, but then if you do, your symptoms will be much less severe if you had the flu shot. It’s not a perfect tool, but it’s the best tool we have right now to keep people healthy and to fight the flu.”
The flu vaccine doesn’t just protect individuals’ health, though.
“There’s always some question as to how effective the vaccine is — normally, it’s going to be between 40 and 60 percent,” Warner said. “This year, from what I’ve heard, it’s still in that range. If we can stop 60 percent of the community from getting the flu, that helps develop some of the herd immunity we’re always looking for.”
Warner added that those who are sick should cover their coughs and sneezes and stay home to prevent the flu from spreading further, and everyone should wash their hands.
The Highland County Health Department’s Care-A-Van, a mobile medical center, will be in various Highland County communities beginning Tuesday, Jan. 28 to offer flu vaccinations.
There is no copay with most health insurances. People with health insurance should bring a copy of their insurance card.
For those who don’t have health insurance, the health department said in a Facebook post on Monday that flu shots will be $10 for uninsured children and $35 for uninsured adults.
“These rates have been discounted. We want to reduce the cost of the influenza vaccine to ensure everyone is able to afford the vaccine,” the post said.
On Friday, Warner told The Times-Gazette, “We’re going to nine or 10 stops around the county several different days, so if someone has mobility problems or transportation issues, it’ll be a little easier for them to get their flu shot. We don’t want anyone who wants their flu shot to not get it just because they can’t get a ride into the health department.”
The following is the schedule for the health department’s flu clinics:
Tuesday, Jan. 28
9 a.m. to 11 a.m. — Joey’s Pizza at Rocky Fork, 6941 SR 753 east of Hillsboro.
9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. — Greenfield Exempted Village School District, elementary building
11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. — Carmel Market
2 p.m. to 3 p.m. — Marshall 1st Stop
Wednesday, Jan. 29
9 a.m. to 11 a.m. — Sugar Tree Ridge Community Building
11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. — Belfast School
2 p.m. to 3 p.m. — Berrysville Township Hall
Thursday, Jan. 30
9 a.m. to 11 a.m. — New Market Township House
11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. — Old Y Restaurant, located at 1940 U.S. 62
2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. — Mowrystown — Edgington Funeral Home
Friday, Jan. 31
9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. — Fairfield Local Schools, Fairfield Board Office
Tuesday, Feb. 4
9 a.m. to 11 a.m. — Buford Community Building
11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. — Lynchburg-Clay Elementary, 6760 SR 134 in Lynchburg.
2 p.m. to 3 p.m. — Lynchburg First Stop, 355 N. Main St. in Lynchburg.
For questions, call the Highland County Health Department at 937-393-1941.
Reach McKenzie Caldwell at 937-402-2570.