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High number of 'stomach flu' cases prompt closure of elementary school

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) - Covington Elementary School, part of the Southwest Allen County Schools district, will be closed Monday for an eLearning day because of a high number of apparent viral gastroenteritis or "stomach flu" cases and high absenteeism among students. 

"The number of kids out of the building jumped to 70 something on Wednesday and then on Thursday we were getting close to may be over a 100," said SACS Superintendent Phil Downs. 

Downs said his district sent out an email to parents on Thursday, alerting them the stomach flu was going around the school. On Friday even more students missed class. In total, the school had 197 absences, school officials said. 

Downs pointed out that while many of the students missed school because of the virus, they're not entirely sure if all of the absences were due to the illness. 

"We don't know who is sick, who was already going to be out for any number of reasons, or they may be sick for reasons that aren't stomach flu related," said Downs. 

Downs also said the number of absent students reached 20% of the school enrollment Friday. When the number gets that high, the school district is required to report it to the state, but Downs said they were not required to close on Monday, instead SACS made the decision as a precaution. 

"Typically the flu virus takes about 48 hours or so to manifest itself and that's a nice weekend," said Downs. "We thought by adding the Monday and washing things down, we could may be put a stop to the whole thing."

On Friday, another email was sent to parents of Covington students which read in part: 

Monday’s eLearning day will run like any weather related closure/eLearning Day. Assignments will be posted by 10 a.m. and teachers will be available via Canvas from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Any eLearning lessons assigned will be due by Monday, December 17, 2018.

The letter also indicated that staff will use the extended weekend to clean the building following a cleaning and disinfection plan recommended by Fort Wayne-Allen County Department of Health and the school's cleaning products supplier. The cleaning will also include the Transportation Department and the school buses.

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