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Illness shuts schools in Letcher, Jenkins

Four schools in the Letcher County Public School District are canceled for the remainder of this week because of flu-like symptoms and other illnesses. All classes in the Jenkins Independent School District are also canceled for Wednesday (today) and Thursday because of flu-like symptoms and illnesses.

Letcher Schools Supt. Anna Craft said Beckham Bates, Letcher and Martha Jane Potter elementary schools and Whitesburg Middle School each had attendance rates below eighty percent on Oct. 27.

Craft said an attendance rate of 80 percent is the barometer she is using to determine whether or not to close schools. She said schools with an attendance will continue to have classes.

“My position is that certain communities are affected at different times,” said Craft. “Those schools who have satisfactory or normal attendance rates will remain in session.”

Jenkins Schools Supt. Debbie Watts said classes were already called off Oct. 27 because of a water main break in town. She said that because the attendance rate was low on Oct. 26 she thought it would be a good opportunity to close school for a couple of extra days to slow down the absences.

“You can’t just shut down all the time and we know that,” said Watts. “I think we made the right decision. We really want our kids to get well. We’re going to see if the kids will be healthy on Friday.”

Watts said in addition to being concerned with student health, she is concerned about keeping the instructional year strong.

“We’ve got to keep that momentum of instruction going,” said Watts. Craft said if the flu season continues to have a major impact children are not going to get an accurate education.

“We will try to keep our education process going,” said Craft. Craft said teachers are making educational packets to send home with students. Both superintendents say their staffs are continu- ously cleaning and sanitizing facilities and buses.

Even though no elections will take place in Letcher County next Tuesday, school is closed on Nov. 3 in observance of Election Day.

Meanwhile, federal health officials announced Tuesday that more than 22 million doses of swine flu vaccine are available now, and most Americans should soon find it easier to get their dose.

“We’re beginning to get to significant increases in the availability,” said Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at a briefing.

Last week there were just 14 million doses on hand, despite initial predictions that as many as 120 million would be ready by mid-October. The government later slashed that estimate to 45 million. The slow supply trickle has frustrated Americans, who have stood in line for hours in some parts of the country.

The shortage has probably increased demand, Frieden said.

“It’s quite likely that that too little vaccine is one of the things that’s making people more interested in getting vaccinated, frankly. When we have shortages, we see an increase in demand,” he said.

Some of the information used in

this report was gathered by The Associated


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