Masses of students too sick to go to school

Sean Simonson

With only the healthy students remaining at school, the reduced traffic in the hallways is one of the major indicators of the H1N1 pandemic at Benilde-St. Margaret’s. The student body was hit hard this last week, with a peak of about 250 students out sick on Tuesday, October 27. Such a high number has prompted the administration to review their policy on closing to prevent the spread of the flu, but they have made no move to employ such drastic action.

Sick students have been staying home in order to prevent and slowing down H1N1 from spreading. The week began with 222 students absent from both senior and junior high, peaked on Tuesday with 250, and slowly descended to about 151 students on Thursday. “I never thought in my wildest dreams I’d have 105 kids out [in the senior high] and say that was easy,” said Kathy Jacobson, the senior high attendance supervisor.

Students who have returned after recovering from H1N1 flu report it being a terrible ordeal. “Orange juice is the only reason I’m better,” said sophomore Alexa Hansen who had it last week.

“I felt like crap, like I was going to faint every five seconds, I was so tired,” said sophomore Leila Aboussir, who missed Monday through Wednesday because of the flu, “but the teachers have been very nice about the homework load.”

Junior Maddie Goodell, who missed four days, had a very different experience with homework. “Homework is going to be my entire weekend,” Maddie said.

Teachers have adjusted assignments so that sick students could still complete them from home. “I’ve had between two and eight kids out of every class,” said English teacher Ms. Kari Koshiol, who has put all of her assignments on Edline and is willing to adjust due dates for returning students. “But for the most part, those who have been out, aren’t back yet,” she said.

When H1N1 hit the news last year, the administrators at BSM took note. “We were expecting and preparing for it,” said assistant principal, Ms. Mary Andersen. They reviewed and tweaked the plan they had in their files, as well as made sure that communication lines to parents and students were opened. A noticeable example is the reminders principal Dr. Sue Skinner has been making in the morning announcements.

But preparation for H1N1 has been a school-wide affair. Janitors have stepped up on disinfecting surfaces, and every teacher have been given a bottle of hand sanitizer to use liberally.

While so many students have been getting H1N1 flu, teachers have yet to be affected by it. Ms. Andersen said that only two teachers have been out sick this week, but she didn’t know if they had H1N1 or another illness. Ms. Koshiol said that she’s noticed teachers being much more careful in attempt to avoid contracting the disease, applying hand sanitizer often. But she doesn’t think that hand sanitizer alone will do much good. “We all just have to wait our turn, it’s coming,” said Ms. Koshiol.