Sick days soar at schools
Winter bugs have swept through Blenheim primary schools during the past few weeks causing higher-than-normal rates of sick days for both children and staff.
Larger schools have been hit hardest by common colds and flus while those with fewer pupils had fared better when the Marlborough Express called late last week.
Children were also taking longer to recover from their illness, sometimes taking up to five days before returning to school.
About 90 children a day were off sick at Renwick School last week as colds and flus, along with vomiting and diarrhoea, spread from junior to senior pupils.
Absenteeism peaked last Tuesday with 93 of its 480 pupils laid up at home. The school had experienced a total of 355 absentees from Monday to Thursday.
Renwick School principal's assistant Heather Johnson said she hadn't seen children taking so long to recover from a cold or flu before.
Witherlea School in Blenheim had an average of 50 pupils off sick each day last week, with a total of 206 absentees.
They peaked on Monday with 64 children absent. Witherlea School has just over 330 pupils enrolled.
Witherlea School principal Murray Hewson said some children had been taken ill at school and had to be sent home.
Winter bugs were also affecting staff with four teachers off on Tuesday, Mr Hewson said.
Relief teachers were also sick, he said."We've had to split classes up because we couldn't get a relief teacher for the whole day."
The principal had to step in and take a class last week.
Springlands principal Gaylene Beattie said Springlands was also experiencing a higher number of children off sick.
Pupils were off for longer and developing secondary conditions like chest and ear infections, she said.
This winter was definitely worse than last year and showed no sign of easing, Ms Beattie said.
"It's been pretty consistent since the holidays," she said.
More children and staff than usual were also absent from Mayfield School.
This was more down to severe colds than flu, said principal David Nott.
"Most days this week we've had at least one staff member away."
Redwoodtown School principal Gary Hildyard said all his staff had been offered a flu shot in April, which he thought had helped to minimise the number of children and teachers getting sick this year.
They had a few more absentees because it was winter, he said.
St Mary's School in Blenheim hadn't noticed any increase in sick days.
Marlborough Principals Association president Andrew Macfarlane said a wet winter had caused more absenteeism although his school, Spring Creek, had fared well.
Mr Macfarlane said it might only be a matter of time before the Canterbury flu outbreak hit Marlborough.
Marlborough Boys' College principal Wayne Hegarty said absenteeism was up 5 per cent on the week before. This was the first spike of winter, he said.
Four teachers were sick on Thursday with similar numbers throughout the week, he said.
- The Marlborough Express