HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - In Hampton Cove, the flu has been wreaking havoc in classrooms.
In recent weeks, it's led to multiple sickouts, causing students to miss out on lessons.
Nikki Dill, PTA President, says the flu has hit Hampton Cove Middle School and Elementary School harder than she's ever seen it before.
“One day, 50 percent of the 6th grade was out and about 30 percent of the other classes. So we’ve been hit extremely hard. Over the past 24 hours, I’ve had close to 100 parents confirm that they have a child at the elementary and middle school confirm that they have a child who has been hit by the flu and diagnosed with the flu,” Dill said.
Laurie Chapman's son is an eighth grader and he was out a whole week when he got sick.
"It should be a call to action that the school should have been shut down to give the sick children and the healthy children the ability to stay home and not get the illness. And allow the teachers to not have to reteach all of this work over again that they're going to have to do for those who were absent," she stated.
Parents pointed out that there are children with compromised immune systems and others who cannot receive the flu vaccine because they have strong reactions to it.
"For people like that, it's like playing Russian Roulette sending their kids to school every day, not knowing if they're going to have another child make them sick," Dill explained.
Parents are worried about the continued spread of illness.
“We’re not really convinced that the cleaning and spraying is going to curtail it,” Dill added. “It’s somewhat of a crisis. Our parents are extremely concerned about it. They’re really worried about the little ones. A number of 1st graders and kindergartners who are being diagnosed. Flu can be deadly for kids.”
Huntsville City Schools current attendance average is at approximately 93%, their spokesman, Keith Ward, said on Monday.
“We had a few schools that had a downward spike last week, but as of today, they have all bounced back to, at least, the 90 percent district average,” Ward added.
Custodial staff have been working after school and on weekends with extensive disinfection procedures to treat high traffic and surface contact areas such as desks, tables, door handles, and seating areas.
Hampton Cove was one such campus that received these extra measures.
Last Monday, Hampton Cove’s schools were below the district’s average, posting an attendance rate of approximately 74%. On Monday, Hampton Cove Elementary and Middle schools’ combined attendance rate is at 92 percent.
"We are appreciative of parents who cooperated with the District's Preventative Health Procedures by keeping their sick child at home, and we are thankful for the hard work by our HCS cleaning teams. Huntsville City Schools will continue with our cleaning and disinfection processes to help fight germs during this cold and flu season," Ward said.
Dr. Jeffrey Wilson, Director of Operations for Huntsville City Schools, says the district invested in specialized disinfectant sprayers for use in those "high touch" areas as an additional resource.
“They greatly enhance our effectiveness and efficiency because you can cover quite a bit of surface, more so than you could with wiping down with wipes,” Wilson said. “We’ve been doing extra custodial services in the buildings, over and above our normal cleaning, applying extra people and resources.”
He says the overtime given to crews to conduct disinfecting operations has allowed Huntsville schools to stay open while other school systems have been forced to shut down.
Nikki Dill says she reached out to their school board representative and the school superintendent about the flu situation.
“We’re very concerned. We don’t want a situation like this to happen again with half a certain class out and no response or just saying we’re going to send someone in to clean. We think there needs to be some kind of a rule in place or some way to minimize transmission beyond just cleaning,” She said. “It’s disappointing that if you have a child who has not been diagnosed with the flu yet, that you have to send them to school. It’s not an excused absence. And you’re risking every single day your child contracting the flu.”
Parents hope their concerns reach the school board.
"If our school had this number of students out, we should have been allowed to shut down the school, clean it and allow our students to get healthy," Laurie Chapman said. "They are still getting sick and the other issue is that we're now seeing strep throat. Several parents are now reporting strep as an outbreak as of Friday. So with these children coming back with weakened immune systems from the flu, that's a new cause for alarm."
They want to see impacted families rebound from this tough couple of weeks and get their children back to full health so they can focus on learning.
“We should have the right to keep even our healthy children home in order to make sure that they don’t get sick and don’t fall even farther behind. With all of the technology and all of the information they can access online for their classes to keep up with their schoolwork, we should, as parents, have that option,” Chapman added.