EDMORE — Montabella Community Schools is shutting down for the week due to an outbreak of influenza.
According to Superintendent Shelly Millis, students and staff began coming down with the flu on Friday. The school had 78 percent attendance today and more than two dozen students were sent home before classes were done for the day.
“We started seeing some illnesses on Friday and we thought the weekend would take care of it,” Millis said. “We’ve had some confirmed classes of influenza A and B. We were in consultation with the (Mid-Michigan District) Health Department throughout the day and we were advised to shut down for four days. The health department’s concern really alerted me to the seriousness of the issue. I don’t want community members and younger siblings affected by this.”
Mid-Michigan District Health Department Medical Director Dr. Robert Graham said he recommended the Montabella school district shut down for the week after he learned 30 percent of elementary school students were absent and 15 percent of middle school and high school students were absent.
“Those numbers make me sit up and take notice,” he said. “When you have that many sick people, it’s best to shut down and try to stop the spread of it. For each child that has influenza, up to 15 people in the community can be affected.”
Graham said he and his colleagues checked in with local doctors, who confirmed they were treating several sick students from the Montabella school district. Graham said the A and B strains of the flu are not exotic, but have been circulating in the United States since 2009. He encourages everyone to get a flu shot, if they haven’t already.
“B will make you sick and A will make you a lot more sick,” he said.
Millis said staff members have been affected with the flu, as well as students. Healthy staff members will not be required to report to work the rest of the week either.
“We have to follow our master contract,” she said. “For our teachers, any time a day that is out of our control happens, like this week, they are not required to report to work. But when they have to make up days at the end of the year, they won’t be compensated.”
Due to the flu outbreak, three school concerts have been canceled this week, as well as Tuesday’s boys basketball game at home. Millis is hoping Friday’s girls basketball game can still be played, albeit at a new location.
A letter was sent home to parents making them aware of the situation. Millis is also in the process of sending out an automated alert to the school district.