The Astoria School District, facing upward of 100 students out sick with flu-like symptoms at John Jacob Astor Elementary School, will begin deep cleaning buildings this weekend.
Kate Gohr, the principal at Astor, said around 100 students out of more than 440 have been missing class the past three days.
“I think it’s because we have the youngest kids,” Gohr said. “We’ve had a lot of kids out, fevers, a lot of coughing. They’re still building up their immunities.”
Craig Hoppes, the school superintendent in Astoria, said the number of students out with flu-like symptoms has also reached about 50 at other campuses.
The school district has been in contact with the Clatsop County Public Health Department and other school districts on how to stem the sickness. District staff will deep clean Astor on Friday and Saturday evening, wiping every surface from eye level down, Gohr said.
“We’ll do as many of the schools as we can this weekend, starting with Astor,” Hoppes said.
This year’s flu season has peaked later than in the past couple of years, with the percentage of emergency room visits attributable to the disease still increasing. A Warrenton teen died Sunday of flu-related complications, likely the first pediatric death of the season in Oregon related to the illness.
Jewell School cleaned and shut down its K-12 campus for three days in February after around one-third of the student population came down with flu-like symptoms. Last school year, Knappa School District temporarily shut down Hilda Lahti Elementary School for a deep cleaning to stem a flu outbreak.
Michael McNickle, the county's public health director, said he has not heard of any ongoing major outbreaks besides Astoria's. County health officials provided Astoria hospital-grade sanitary wipes effective against the flu and recommended two rounds of cleaning to ensure the campus is clean, he said.
The absences because of flu have complicated the school district’s Strive for Five goal to have students not miss more than five days of the school year.
“It’s awfully hard, because parents are afraid the school will come down hard on them, which isn’t the case,” Hoppes said. “We’re focusing on kids missing 25 to 30 days.”