Eastern Mennonite School closes due to flu

HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - The Center for Disease Control is calling the flu this year an "epidemic." Some schools around the country have had to shut down, and one in the Valley did, too.

The hallways and classrooms were empty at Eastern Mennonite Schools on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Faculty decided to close school after having over half of their students absent on Monday due to flu-like symptoms, according to Paul Leaman, head of the school.

They made the decision to close so the kids who were sick could stay home and get the rest they needed and the ones who were healthy were not exposed to the extra germs.

"No one wants children to get ill," Leaman said, "and small bodies can get this contagious flu pretty quickly."

Leaman says the school has never had to close for illness before, but janitors have taken extra precautions on the days they have been closed; everything in the school has been sprayed down with a heavy bleach disinfectant.

Although the school was closed for two days, they wanted to stay on schedule with curriculum.

"We can, if we cancel school, choose to have a learning, kind of an enrichment learning day at home for K-12," Leaman said.

These learning days are called "Snow Folder" days for elementary school kids and "Online Learning Days" for middle and high school students.

The kids log into their Power School accounts, which they use regulary in the classroom, and access the assignments teachers have given them.

It is not a full day's worth of work, but it does help to keep the kids engaged when they are away from school.

The school typically only uses these assignments once they have run out of built-in snow days, but they wanted to implement the extra learning since they were closed for illness.

Teachers will evaluate how effective the online days are when students return and talk about different ways to improve them to make the most of students' time.

Students are set to return back to school on Thursday. The school asked for families to self-report illness and whether it was a confirmed flu case. They will report those numbers to the Virginia Department of Health.