Mercer schools close due to widespread illness

HARRODSBURG — Classes were cancelled for Friday in the Mercer County School District and a non-traditional instructional day was held on Thursday, “due to a combination of student and staff illnesses,” Superintendent Dennis Davis said.

Davis said it was the combination that warranted the closure.

“We have really decreased as far as attendance; we have also increased in the number of staff members that have been sick,” Davis said.

On Wednesday, Davis said, the student percentages had dropped to a little under 92 percent, while there were about 32 staff members out districtwide. There were five staff members that they weren’t able to find substitutes for.

“Schools had to cover,” he said. There were also a lot of students who had checked out to go to the doctor.

Generally, Davis said, when schools drop below 90 percent, they look at closing.

That’s why district officials decided to have students and staff stay home for two days.

“We felt like, if we could get a good four-day weekend. We could have the custodians come in and disinfect and clean — do all that we can do — we can stop the spread,” he said.

Davis said the buildings were open to staff on Thursday if they wanted to come in and work. On Monday, it will be business as usual, he hopes.

“Monday, we plan to be open at full strength,” Davis said.

In Boyle County, the numbers have been holding pretty strong, said Chris Holderman, assistant superintendent.

This week, he said, they’ve been staying at about 95 percent districtwide, although some of the schools have been proactive in making sure the spaces are getting extra cleaning.

“We’ve been very fortunate. We’re monitoring it, we do that every day anyway,” he said. “We’re doing pretty good.”

Keith Look, superintendent of the Danville Schools, said the numbers are “holding steady” there as well.

Jeremy Cocanougher, marketing coordinator of the Ephraim McDowell Regional Medical Center, said Ephraim Health had not seen an increase “in anything specific” this year compared to other years.

The Boyle County Health Department reports the same, said Brent Blevins, director.

“So far, we’ve not seen anything more than what normally happens this time of the year. The flu around Kentucky is starting to increase, but as far as Boyle County, we’re pretty normal,” Blevins said.

But, that could easily change, he pointed out.

“If something were to get into the schools, that could change quickly,” Blevins said.

Other school districts around the state were also forced to cancel school for multiple days.

Butler County Schools and Russellville Independent Schools both canceled school for the rest of the week on Wednesday, according to the Bowling Green Daily News. Edmonton County Schools have also canceled classes until next Wednesday due to widespread illness, the Bowling Green paper reported.

Follow Kendra Peek on Twitter, @knpeek.