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Sickness taking its toll on school attendance rate

A rash of viruses and flu-like illnesses are still having a big impact on the attendance rate in the the Letcher County School District.

“We are concerned about our attendance,” Supt. Anna Craft told the Letcher County Board of Education at its September meeting Monday. “We’ve got a lot of sick people in Letcher County.”

The district attendance rate for this school year is a meager 92.15 percent, but is still above the rates in two other Kentucky counties where schools were closed Tuesday.

The Times-Tribune of Corbin reports that Whitley County schools will be closed at least through today (Wednesday). The Kentucky New Era of Hopkinsville reports that Todd County Public Schools will be closed for the rest of the week.

The Times-Tribune reports that schools in southeastern Kentucky was down to about 85 percent on Sept. 25, the last day classes met. Todd County Superintendent Mike Kenner told The New Era this week that the southwestern Kentucky district had a 20 percent absenteeism rate.

Craft told board members that Cowan Elementary School, where classes were canceled for three days earlier in the school year because of illness, had several more students absent on Friday and Monday. She said several kindergarten students at West Whitesburg Elementary School are sick with viruses or flulike symptoms, and that students at Letcher Elementary School are also beginning to miss school because of illness.

“The Center for Disease Control keep your schools open,” said Craft. “We are trying to have school. I figure we are going to have some sick people all winter.”

Craft said faculty and staff are working diligently to keep school facilities and buses clean and disinfected.

“We tell them to pay attention to doorknobs, pencil sharpeners, things that they share,” said Craft.

Craft said parents are continuing to notify her if students test positive for strain A flu. She said H1N1 is a type of the strain A flu but is not the only type of strain A.

Craft said at least eight football players didn’t go to a game recently because they were sick.

“(Parents) are being thoughtful and keeping their children away from others,” said Craft. “It takes everyone in the community to help.”

In other business, the board approved a working budget for the 2009-10 school year that includes a contingency fund of $1,041,318.

Roger Martin, district finance officer, said the budget includes money for much-needed repairs, including $35,000 to begin replacing food service equipment that is on “its last leg.” Martin said it will cost between $130,000 and $150,000 to replace the roof at Whitesburg Middle School.

Martin said the district has begun replacing the outdated communication and monitoring system for the school buses.

“That was a very high priority to get those in place,” said Martin.

Martin also told the board there is a problem at Letcher Elementary School with the geothermal heating and cooling system, and that a new cooling unit may be needed.

“Don’t we have a warranty on this thing?” asked Smith. “It’s supposed to be the best thing since sliced bread.”

“On the hot days it’s just not getting the job done,” said Martin. “They probably didn’t drill enough wells.”

Martin said the amount of state money allocated to the district for buying new math textbooks has been reduced by $100,000, leaving only $11,000 to buy the new books.

“There is no way you can buy math books for the district for $11,000,” said Martin. “The wisest thing is to delay the adoption for a year.”

Pointing out that the math text is widely used in the district, Martin said, “I don’t know how much more wear and tear it can take.”

In other business, the board:

• named ROTC instructor Sgt. Wayne Watts as employee of the month.

• approved using the Letcher County Central High School football field for a “Community Thrill the World Dance” on Oct. 24.

• approved a request to use the LCCHS baseball field for a fall baseball league.

• approved the LCCHS band’s request to participate in a band tournament in Paintsville on Jan. 14.

• approved out-of-state trips for Beckham Bates Elementary School’s eighthgrade to Washington, D.C., on June 1 and the LCCHS baseball team to Cocoa Beach, Fla., on April 4.

• authorized the purchase of four school buses: two 22-passenger buses, one 52-passenger bus and one 66-passenger bus.

• approved a contract with Kristi Dixon, a speech therapist, to provide services for the 2009-2010 school year.

• approved payment of $15,636.56 to Mountain Enterprises for asphalt paving for the Safe Routes to School Sidewalk project at West Whitesburg. Martin said $17,000 is stilled owed for the project.

“I think this is a wonderful project,” said Craft. “So many people use it.”

• approved the monthly financial report, payment of bills and transfers, and payment of salaries for September 2009. Martin reported a general balance ledger of $5,193,446.

• Learned of the resignations or retirements of four employees, including Mary Wright, a custodian at Martha Jane Potter Elementary School; Patricia Dotson, a cook/baker at Cowan Elementary School; Terry Wyatt, a custodian/ lunch monitor at Beckham Bates Elementary School; and Darrell McBee, a district wide custodian.

The next board meeting is set for 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 26 in the Lendell Smith Memorial Conference Room of the Letcher County School bus garage.

The Associated Press contributed

to this report.

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