Kansas schools close due to illnesses among students, staff

Schools are dealing with the impact of a tripledemic - flu, COVID and RSV.
Published: Dec. 8, 2022 at 11:43 PM CST|Updated: Dec. 8, 2022 at 11:44 PM CST
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Illnesses are forcing some schools around Kansas to close this week. School leaders are choosing to give an entire building or district a longer weekend in hopes of recovering and curbing absences.

Some parents, like Chelsea Thompson, think schools should start enforcing masks.

“I want everybody to go back to wearing masks in schools because this is ridiculous. It’s just getting worse.” said the Colvin Elementary School parent.

Thompson is among the parents whose children are out of school Thursday and Friday. The principal at Colvin said the closure is due to staffing challenges from illnesses and not enough substitute teachers.

“People have to find out what to do with childcare,” Thompson said. “You have people that just don’t know what to do. It’s just a mess.”

The Wichita school is not alone. The Ashland school district closed Thursday due to a high number of student and staff absences from illnesses. Graham County Schools experienced a similar problem, closing Thursday and Friday.

Sedgwick County health officials said they’re seeing more kids and adults being hospitalized with Covid, the flu, RSV and other illnesses that are more prevalent this year.

“A lot of people were practicing those good health habits of masking, that we know now really does work, and social distancing, washing our hands a lot, staying home if we’re ill,” said Sedgwick County Health Director Adrienne Byrne.

She said the situation may get worse since the peak of these flu-like illnesses has yet to be reached.

“Sometimes, we don’t reach our peak until February, sometimes March. So, there’s a lot of sickness yet to be had,” said Byrne.

The Wichita Public Schools nutrition program distributed lunches Thursday for the two days school is out at Colvin Elementary. The principal said custodial staff will deep clean the building and classes will resume on Monday.