White River schools reach 10 percent absence

Two elementary schools in the White River school district met or exceeded 10 percent absence levels due to illness Tuesday.

The schools were Wilkeson Elementary at exactly 10 percent illness absence and Foothills elementary at 15.6 percent.

"There are definitely a lot more kids out absent," said Patty Hu, the attendance secretary for Elk Ridge Elementary, which had the lowest absence level at 6 percent. "A few of the kids that are here, you can tell from looking at them that they are just making it through the day."

Ten percent is the level at which schools are required to report to the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department. Tanya Stottlemyre, the registered nurse in charge of White River's elementary schools, compiled the final numbers in the afternoon once attendance secretaries had collected parent phone calls and made follow-up calls to unreported absences. She would report to the health department immediately, she said.

Once a 10 percent or higher absence level is reported, the health department investigates whether many unrelated illnesses or a single outbreak is the cause.

White River schools saw a spike in absences two weeks ago. It was concentrated in White River High School and Glacier Middle School, but has since trickled down to the elementary schools, Superintendent Tom Lockyer said.

Diligent cleaning procedures are in place for the swine flu threat, and the district is encouraging students and parents to follow good hygiene protocol by washing hands thoroughly, covering coughs and calling in absent for illness.

A flu vaccine clinic will be held at Glacier Middle School on Nov. 19.

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