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Canyons School District hit hard by cold, flu season

Posted at 6:00 PM, Jan 11, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-11 20:19:32-05

SANDY, Utah -- It's cold and flu season, and one school district is being hit particularly hard with illness.

“It’s starting to spread and once it spreads, it spreads like wildfire," said Dr. Robert Heck, an ER Physician at Alta View Hospital.

It's taking out teachers left and right in Canyons School District.

“It’s elementary, middle, high school teachers, special education teachers. Everybody across the board," said Jeff Haney, a spokesperson for the district.

Wednesday, 51 teachers had to call out sick.  Thursday, that number increased to 54.  They were either ill themselves or had a sick child at home that they needed to care for.

Haney said 54 teachers is the equivalent of about all the teachers in three of their elementary schools.

Statistics show those numbers are around average; Haney said every year around this time about 40 to 50 teachers call out in the district.

Other school districts like Granite reported they are seeing below average numbers in employees calling out, and called Canyons School District’s situation an “anomaly.”

Normally finding a substitute for those teachers is fairly easy, Haney said. This year, though, that does not seem to be the case.

“When teachers can’t come in, we turn to the sub list, but this year our sub list has been hit really hard with people who are ill with the flu that’s going around or that horrible cold that we’re seeing in our schools as well,” Haney said.

This may just be the beginning.

“This flu seems to have started a little bit late. We usually have it early, starting early in December… and it seems to be a little bit more intense this year,” Dr. Heck said.

He added it does not help that the people in buildings like schools are basically working or learning in a Petri dish.

“That is probably a more dangerous place to be than the emergency department as far as catching it because you have lots of kids. You have lots of sneezing and coughing and then touching,” he explained.

Administration said despite all of this, student learning will not be interrupted.

“Every classroom will have oversight. Every classroom will have learning opportunities even when teachers are out sick. We do have plans in place to make sure that learning goes on,” Haney said.

Wednesday, 18 classrooms needed emergency substitutes. Those are parents who have passed background checks and are qualified or other teachers who fill in during what would normally be their planning periods.

Thursday, only six classrooms needed coverage. Still, Haney said they would like to see more people visit the district website, see if they meet the qualifications, and sign up to be an emergency substitute