Wiregrass Newsroom: Schools worry H1N1 absences will affect AYP standing

Posted by: Melissa Johnson - bio | email

Houston County, AL (WSFA) - With H1N1 patients filling doctor's offices across the state, doctors say their biggest concerns now aren't with the severity of the virus, but the sheer number of cases they're seeing.

Dr. Mark Strassburg from Dothan Pediatric Clinic says he's seen the virus penetrate the area very fast.

He said, "School is the vector.  That's just the case when you get a lot of children together."

Statewide, the heaviest concentration of absences has been in southeast Alabama.

Barbour County ranks highest at 14.67 percent.  Houston County hovers around 11.5 percent.

Superintendent Tim Pitchford says he's keeping a close watch and checking the attendance numbers daily.

Rehobeth High has the county's highest absentee rate, hitting a low of only 85% attendance, and that's causing a new concern for administrators.  That's because absentee rates affect "Adequate Yearly Progress" or AYP.

Superintendent Pitchford says he is very concerned about the issue with AYP.  That's because schools have to have a minimum of 95% attendance to make AYP.  Otherwise, they fail.

Even so, Pitchford says he hopes parents realize how important it is to keep your kids home until they are well.  He asks parents not to send your child back to school still sick and still with fever.  Parent Vannise Gillilan agrees.  With a child sick with H1N1, she says, she knows how what's it's like to have to rearrange schedules due to a sick child.

She and school leaders are taking measures to keep the virus from spreading.

The official a-y-p attendance numbers will be calculated late next month.