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Absences Up In County Schools

“I don’t see a trend right now that bothers me,” said Superintendent of Schools Paul Stapleton when asked about the absentee rate in the county’s schools. “Over the last two weeks our absences actually have gone down.”
With the onset of the cold and flu season, and the impending threat of the H1N1 flu virus, school systems in other parts of the nation have been experiencing high levels of student absenteeism, forcing some school divisions to close schools for one or more days.

Absentee rates for Halifax County’s two early learning centers, seven elementary and two secondary schools this week have been hovering around the 10 percent mark for the 6,014 students in Halifax County Public Schools, according to figures released by the school system.

A total of 600 students were absent from the county’s schools Monday, representing a rate of 10 percent, school officials said. Tuesday the rate was slightly higher at 11 percent, with 680 students absent. On Wednesday the number of absences fell to 579, or 9.6 percent.

And Thursday, the rate was 10 percent, with 601 students absent, school officials confirmed.

The absentee rate of a typical school day is approximately 5 percent, according to Stapleton. “I’m pleased we have not had a lot of absences,” he said.

The school system, in partnership with the Virginia Department of Health, is offering H1N1 vaccinations to students and school system employees at no charge. In order for their children to participate in the program, parents were required to sign a permission form and return it to the school.

Approximately 43 percent of the student population returned completed forms, school officials said. H1N1 vaccination clinics will be scheduled in the schools for students and school employees when the health department receives the vaccine.

“Actually, we have been very fortunate,” Stapleton said. “From what we have seen there is no indication of any widespread flu epidemic in our schools. It doesn’t appear to have impacted us as a school division.”