MILLINGTON, TN (WMC) - Hundreds of Mid-South students spent another day out of class. Multiple districts across West Tennessee and North Mississippi have been closed portions of this week because of a variety of contagious illnesses.
At Tipton-Rosemark Academy in northeast Shelby County, the only people on campus Friday were those cleaning classrooms.
"This is probably the best thing to do to curtail the situation," said Bobby Baker, Head of School at Tipton-Rosemark Acadmey, "We hope this is going to work."
Cleaning crews were brought in to sanitize classrooms and disinfect everything from toys to walls.
"They're trying to get every surface," Baker said.
Baker said leaders made the choice to close school Thursday and Friday as absences spiked among students and staff. Symptoms included fever and stomach issues, with at least one confirmed case of the flu.
"I've never been in a situation where we had to close school because of absences," Baker said.
Tipton-Rosemark was not alone.
McNairy and Haywood County schools were closed Friday, along with North and South Tippah County Schools in Mississippi. Hardeman County Schools will be closed Friday and Monday.
The CDC’s flu surveillance map shows high activity in Arkansas and Mississippi and moderate flu activity in Tennessee.
“Right now, we certainly are seeing plenty of the non-flu respiratory illnesses, but we’re just in the last week or two in Memphis, starting to see a lot more influenza as well,” said Dr. Steve Threlkeld, an infectious disease consultant at Baptist Memorial Hospital - Memphis.
Threlkeld said closing school to fight illness can be a very effective approach, isolating sick students from those who are well.
“It certainly can be helpful to have an extra day there to break the cycles of contagion,” he said.
He also advises parents to make sure they, along with their children, have the flu vaccine.
Back at Tipton-Rosemark, Baker hopes the long weekend will do some good, and students and staff can return Monday feeling better.
“When you try to teach a class and half the kids are gone, it’s better just to take a break, heal, then come back,” he said.