Absenteeism up at schools
The absentee rate in the Ramona schools is higher than usual, but no one can be sure if the swine flu is to blame.
“The County Office of Education has asked us to report in on a daily basis if 10 percent or more of students are absent from a school, regardless of the reason,” said Dr. Robert Graeff, superintendent of Ramona schools. “We’ve had two or three schools a week with more than 10 percent and most, but not all of our schools, have hit that threshold.
“Absenteeism is definitely higher than last year at this time, more like something we would see in January or February.”
The problem is no one is sure why.
“Are parents just being more cautious than usual?” Graeff asked. “We don’t know.”
In the past, if children were ill, they would go to a doctor, who would take a culture and then confirm what type of flu the students had, so the county would know and schools would know.
“Because of the large numbers of sick children, they are not doing that this year,” Graeff said. “So the county doesn’t know, and we don’t know. All we know is what parents are saying when they call in,” but no one is tracking that information.
“We’re getting a lot of calls from concerned parents, but we don’t have any answers,” Graeff said.
The level of concern probably spiked last week when President Barack Obama declared the H1N1 flu outbreak to be “a national emergency.” Administration officials tried to calm fears by explaining that this was more of a “pre-emptive move” designed to cut red tape to make it easier for health officials to act quickly, if necessary. For example, hospitals might set up tent emergency rooms in parking lots, open alternative care sites in other locations or cut back on time-consuming paperwork.
Meanwhile, many parents are anxious for their children to be vaccinated against H1N1 flu and the county has been looking for locations to hold vaccination clinics, if and when the vaccine arrives.
The Ramona Unified School District was contacted by the county a couple weeks ago and the district has submitted a formal proposal to the county, Graeff said.
“We told them they can use multipurpose rooms in several of our schools during nonschool time, such as Saturdays or evenings,” Graeff said.
But the schools will not be involved or take any responsibility, other than providing a location.
“Nothing is definite at all, but it looks like they will try to schedule something in Ramona in mid or late November, probably on Saturdays,” Graeff said, providing thevaccine is available.
The Sentinel attempted to contact local doctors to see how widespread swine flu is in Ramona, but all were too busy to talk.
Debbie Meyer, office manager for Dr. Marcelo Rivera, said that they have seen about 10 cases of swine flu in the past two months. However, Rivera’s office does not treat anyone under 16 years of age.
Two weeks ago a number of players on the Ramona High School football team were thought to have the flu.
“We battled the flu all week,” Coach Damon Baldwin said. “Every time I tried to address the team, I was interrupted by a chorus of coughs.”
“But by the end of the week, we came back and won the game (against Orange Glen on Oct. 16),” Graeff said. “Life is good.”
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