Illness could cost schools and students



Strep throat, stomach flu and fever are becoming both health and finance issues for area elementary schools.

Many school attendance clerks are reporting higher numbers of absences, but Jamestown and Sonora elementary schools in particular are suffering from empty seats.

On Tuesday, 128 of the 799 enrolled students were absent from Sonora Elementary School, a loss to the district of $3,200 because state income to the school is based on daily attendance. Yesterday, the absences again were high, and Superintendent Ken Harbord said he is braced for the illnesses to cost the school $10,000 by tomorrow.

"I can't believe how many kids we have out," said Cathy Owens, Sonora Elementary's attendance clerk. "They're just dropping like flies." Last year around this time, only about 50 students called in sick, she said.

At Jamestown Elementary, 49 of about 565 kids were out yesterday. That's a 33 percent increase from normal absence rates and cost the school $1,225.

Schools are funded by an average daily attendance formula that amounts to about $25 per elementary school student per day.

"We're not asking parents to send their sick kids, but it's another blow to local schools," said Harbord.

"We expect to absorb certain losses, but this just adds up really quickly." Harbord added that students should be returned to school as soon as they're well enough and no longer contagious.

Up until two years ago, schools could still receive ADA funding if absences were excused by parents. But the state eliminated that practice after raising ADA funding.

"A lot of parents write a note and think the school's OK financially, when in reality, it's not," Harbord said.

But according to Cheryl Postolu, Sonora Elementary's business manager, the funding can be recovered if absences become a bigger problem.

"If normal attendance figures drop by 10 percent, the school may obtain official documentation from the county health department that is used in a waiver process allowing the school to recoup the lost funds," Postolu said.

The Union Democrat
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