Ill­ness prompts Gen­try school clos­ings

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST ARKANSAS - HICHAM RAACHE Hicham Raache can be reached by email at or Twit­ter @NWAHicham.

GEN­TRY — Su­per­in­ten­dent Randy Bar­rett will close schools to­day, hop­ing to neu­tral­ize wide­spread sick­ness hit­ting stu­dents and teach­ers across city schools.

“We’ve had a steadily in­creas­ing num­ber of stu­dents and staff be­ing sick and miss­ing school with ap­par­ent flu-like symp­toms,” Bar­rett said. “We al­ready have a three-day week­end (be­cause of Wash­ing­ton’s Birth­day on Mon­day) and we de­cided it would be a good course of ac­tion to put an ex­tra day be­fore the week­end and have a four-day sep­a­ra­tion, and hope­fully that would break the cy­cle.”

The School Dis­trict an­nounced on its web­site and Face­book page classes would be can­celed.

Bar­rett es­ti­mates 13 per­cent of the 1,440 stu­dents in the four schools were ab­sent Thurs­day be­cause of sick­ness. He said a much greater than av­er­age num­ber of the 112 teach­ers have called in sick, but some were ab­sent for other rea­sons.

“Across the dis­trict, we’d prob­a­bly have 10 to 15 teach­ers out (to­day),” Bar­rett said Thurs­day.

The num­ber of stu­dents and teach­ers sick has in­creased over the past “week or two,” said Mary Bai­ley, nurse su­per­vi­sor for the dis­trict.

Bai­ley de­scribed the symp­toms as “gen­eral flu­like symp­toms” of sore throat, high fever, body aches and cough­ing.

The high teacher ab­sence placed a strain on sub­sti­tute teacher avail­abil­ity, Bar­rett said.

“It was go­ing to be dif­fi­cult, from what I’ve been told, to get subs,” he said.

A Gravette School Dis­trict staff mem­ber said while a large num­ber of stu­dents are sick, classes to­day wouldn’t be can­celed.

De­catur High School Prin­ci­pal Toby Con­rad said De­catur schools will be in ses­sion to­day, and that while a greater than usual num­ber of sick­ness-re­lated ab­sences have hap­pened this school year, there hasn’t been an ab­nor­mally large num­ber of ab­sences this week.

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