Each school year we are successful in creating an environment where the vast majority of students remain healthy throughout flu season. This success comes from a janitorial staff focused and detailed in its work, teachers who make extra efforts to wipe down desks and sinks during the day, school nurses who monitor illness and are continually providing health related education, and students who diligently wash their hands, cover their coughs, stay home when they are sick and get their vaccines.

Occasionally, even our best efforts are not enough to keep absence from illness below 10 percent.

DMPS Nurses report the percentage of staff and students out to Polk County Health Department (PCHD) on a daily basis throughout each school year. Recently, some buildings have been reporting above the 10% threshold, which is not isolated here in Des Moines but a trend that we are seeing across the state and the United States. Here at DMPS, most of the illness related absences are due to colds, flu, and RSV, but also COVID-19. Teachers and staff are also suffering, creating a greater need for substitutes.

“This is a good time to remind everyone to increase their handwashing efforts,” said DMPS Health Services Supervisor Melissa Abbott. “Cover your coughs and sneezes, get your flu and COVID vaccines, and most important of all — stay home when you are sick.”

Also, make a plan for what your family will do if your student should need to be cared for at home. Students may return to school once a fever is gone for 24 hours without the assistance of fever-reducing medications (Ibuprofen, Advil, Tylenol, etc.) and symptoms of illness have resolved or significantly improved.

“Please don’t send a child to school sick to try and ‘tough it out’ for the school day,” Abbott said. “Remember the risk of severe illness is real, and it’s important to remember that other children in the classroom may also be at risk for serious complications from respiratory viruses.”

Remember these strategies to protect yourself and others from serious illness now and during the holidays. DMPS Nurses and Abbott continue to work closely with PCHD and IDPH during this time and will follow any guidance that they recommend.

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