Round Meadow Elementary School gives awards to the handful of students who make it through an entire school year with a perfect attendance record – that means no absences, no tardies, and no early sign-outs. (No exceptions.)
But the school, in Hidden Hills, Calif., may change its policy for the 2013-14 school year, says principal Jeremy Resnick. The flu has hit students and staff hard this year, and he doesn't want to encourage kids to come to school, or their parents to send them, when they have a potentially contagious disease.
Despite automated phone calls reminding parents that their children should stay home if they have a fever, vomiting or diarrhea, "we think there are probably people who are sending their kids to school when they shouldn't," he says.
That's one of the reasons many schools ditched that type of award because of the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic, says Andrea Vazzana, a child and adolescent psychologist at the NYU Langone Medical Center. And others, like Round Meadow, are reconsidering in light of this year's flu and norovirus outbreaks.
For now, the award is in place, but Resnick says he tries to keep it low key – a paper certificate and maybe a gift certificate to a local restaurant – so as not to make it too tempting to come to school sick. Fewer than a dozen of the school's 550-odd students get the award each year, and out of nine elementary schools in the district, Round Meadow is one of the only schools to still have an annual perfect attendence.
Schools are right to be cautious. Like offices, classrooms and hallways are great places for infectious diseases to spread, with close contact between students and plenty of shared surfaces. (Let's not even talk about the nose-picking and pencil-sucking habits of younger kids.)
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that children stay home from school until their temperatures measure below 100 degrees, without medication, for 24 hours.
Image: Girl wiping her nose, via Shutterstock