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Flu empties some Oklahoma classrooms

Cherokee School District dismissed class for the rest of the week as the flu spreads across Oklahoma.
BY CARRIE COPPERNOLL Modified: January 15, 2013 at 7:47 pm •  Published: January 15, 2013

Cherokee schools Superintendent Cory Ellis doesn't know when homecoming will be, but it certainly won't be Friday.

Half of the students in the Cherokee School District didn't show up for school Tuesday, Ellis said. Classes were called off for the rest of the week so a suspected flu outbreak wouldn't get worse. Homecoming, set for Friday, was shelved.

“I don't even know when we'll be able to have the dance,” Ellis said Tuesday morning. “We only have two home games left, and they're on a Tuesday and a Thursday.”

The Alfalfa County school district has 345 students in prekindergarten through high school. Monday, 87 students were out with flu-like symptoms. Tuesday, 171 were gone.

As the flu season ramps up across Oklahoma, several school districts on Tuesday reported higher-than-normal absenteeism.

The likely culprit in the northwestern Oklahoma town of Cherokee: the flu, Ellis said. A stomach bug going around isn't helping either, he said.

Ellis and the high school principal were sick last week. Teachers have been out, too. Co-workers have been covering for one another when a sub can't be found. But there really aren't that many children in the classrooms anyway.

“It's not conducive to learning,” Ellis said.

The third-grade class was down from 28 students to 16, and Ellis said Tuesday morning that he expected the number to shrink even more before school let out.

“What are you doing with those left?” he said. “They could probably have another couple kids fall out.”

The idea is for everybody to stay home — away from each other — and have plenty of time to recover.

Ellis said he expects classes to resume Monday.

In the mean time, a team of custodians and other staff members are scrubbing down the school while the students are gone.

Flu season creeps

into class

Some schools are reporting an increase in absences as the flu spreads throughout Oklahoma.

Like Cherokee, Keifer Public Schools in Creek County has closed temporarily because of suspected flu cases this year, according to the state Education Department.

In Oklahoma City, three schools have reported a rise in absences, district spokeswoman Tierney Tinnin said.

• Monroe Elementary School, 4810 N Linn: More than 100 of 450 students sent home with flu-like symptoms. Four confirmed flu cases.

• North Highland Elementary School, 8400 N Robinson: Three teachers and more than 60 of 520 students absent Tuesday. No confirmed cases of flu.

• Jefferson Middle School, 6800 S Blackwelder: About 30 of 1,000 students sent home a day.

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