Intense flu season tests school district’s new protocols to prevent spread of illnesses
Despite “widespread and intense” flu activity in much of the country this year, according to the CDC, Flagler Schools’ attendance rates were actually higher this January than last January in five out of the county’s nine public schools. In the other four, the decrease in attendance was less than 2%.
The district implemented protocols last summer to impede the spread of illnesses like the flu, partnering with the Health Department to track “clusters” of illnesses in the schools and react quickly to them.
When a school nurse notices such a cluster, said district spokesman Jason Wheeler — say, several kids from one classroom coming down with the flu, as happened at Old Kings Elementary before winter break — the nurse communicates that information to the Health Department and to Shott.
After the district identifies all the areas a sick student would have likely been — which classrooms they’d used, which extracurriculars they were involved with, and which buses, if any, they took to and from school — the district’s custodial team then comes in and disinfects all of those areas with sanitizers.
The district’s custodial team has two new devices this year, manufactured by Clorox, that disinfect large areas quickly by releasing a mist of sanitizer that clings to surfaces and disinfects them as it dries. The machines can work quickly — in a matter of minutes when students are out of the classroom for recess or lunch.
Custodial teams are also doing a “deep clean” of one school each month this year.
The district is tracking the clusters and its responses through a Google document spreadsheet, Shott said.
So far, the district had a cluster of students with flu-like symptoms and gastrointestinal illness at Old Kings Elementary right before the winter break and a few flu-symptom cases there last week. There were also some clusters at Belle Terre Elementary, Shott said.