Flu, RSV and other respiratory illnesses are forcing more Kentucky school districts to close or move to remote learning.
Fayette County Public Schools announced Sunday the district was closing Monday due to “widespread illness” among students and staff. FCPS is the state’s second-largest district and among at least 25 Kentucky school districts that have had to temporarily shut down in-person learning this month.
There are 171 public school systems in the state.
Lexington-Fayette County Health Department spokesperson Christina King told WFPL News flu is “exploding” in the county, and that RSV is also on the rise. But, unlike last fall, COVID-19 rates appear relatively low and stable.
In addition to COVID, flu and RSV, some districts are also seeing many strep throat and pneumonia cases.
“Public health experts have been predicting that this may be a worse year for respiratory pathogens compared to the past two years now that masks are no longer commonly used,” Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services spokesperson Susan Dunlap said in an email to WFPL News.
Early data Dunlap shared suggests that prediction may prove true. Kentucky is already in the “widespread” category of flu spread, a level not usually seen until much later in the flu season.
Flu and RSV are also driving hospitalizations, especially of young children.
“Nearly all staffed pediatric ICU beds in Kentucky children’s hospitals are currently occupied indicating that this may be straining the pediatric health care system,” Dunlap wrote Friday.
At Fleming County Schools, in northeastern Kentucky, Superintendent Brian Creasman said he decided to call off school for three days after almost a quarter of the student body was absent.
“I’ve been in education 20-plus years,” he said, “I don’t think I ever had seen attendance dip that low.”
Illnesses are hitting teachers and staff too, Creasman said, making it hard to keep schools running in person, or even remotely through nontraditional instruction or NTI.
“They could not teach at home — they’re that sick,” he said.
Creasman plans to bring students back Wednesday. Fleming County Schools and many other districts were already scheduled to be off Tuesday for the General Election.
Jefferson County Public Schools spokesperson Carolyn Callahan said the state’s largest district isn’t seeing huge dips in attendance.
“We have a few schools with elevated instances of flu, however it is not widespread across JCPS,” Callahan said in an email.
JCPS students are out Monday while faculty take a scheduled professional development day. JCPS will be out for Election Day as well.