LINCOLN COUNTY, Tenn. - Lincoln County Schools, Lawrence County, Tenn. Schools and Fayetteville City Schools will be closed Thursday and Friday due to increased illness. In a Facebook post, Fayetteville City Schools Superintendent Dr. Janine Wilson confirmed that nearly 300 students and faculty were absent with sickness.
Fayetteville City Schools officials said that the FAST program will be open regular hours on Thursday, but will be closed on Friday.
Even Lawrence County Schools is closing.
Giles County Schools will be open Thursday for a half-day as planned, but due to a surge in illness attendance is not mandatory for students. Parent, teacher conferences will be held as scheduled.
Riverside Christian Academy-Fayetteville will also be closed Thursday and Friday due to illness.
Schools are already closed Monday February 20, for President's Day and officials are encouraging students to use the five-day weekend to get well.
Closing schools is always a decision heavily weighed, said Fayetteville City Schools Superintendent Janine Wilson. But in this case, she felt they had to do something.
"It was necessary. There's an epidemic, I'd call it, of influenza in the schools," she explained. "We do know it's an inconvenience for parents, and those who aren't sick. I know they may not understand, but it's just the best decision we can make at the time."
Wilson added that her school system had not just a large number of students, but also rising number of teachers out with the illness.
"We just don't have enough subs to cover the faculty that is out," she explained.
She said it often goes beyond just the health concern, and this decision is also based on learning.
"How much teaching and how much learning is going on when that many students are out?" she asked.
Superintendent of Lincoln County Schools, Bill Heath, said his district was around 15% absentee Wednesday.
"When absentee hits 15%, the red flags go up," he told us by phone. "You start paying attention to adult attendance."
Heath explained they even had bus drivers calling out sick, making it hard for the school system to function as needed because they were so short-staffed on multiple levels.
"I hope the next 5 days will lead to health," he said.
Wilson and Heath each said extra emphasis will be placed on cleaning and sanitizing the schools while students are gone these next two days.
"Hopefully we'll get all the germs cleaned out," said Wilson. "I hope the students stay home and get well."