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Flu Outbreak Causes One North Texas School District To Cancel Classes For A Week

Queen's University
The Bonham school district announced Wednesday that schools will be closed for a week because of the flu outbreak.

This has been a brutal flu season in North Texas. More than 40 people have died so far, and Tuesday, the Bonham Independent School District announced it was closing for a week because of the flu outbreak.

The district, which is located about an hour northeast of Plano, said its six campuses are closing because so many kids and staffers had come down with the flu. Schools will be shuttered starting Wednesday and reopen the following Wednesday, Jan. 24.

Sleet leading to a bad weather day is one thing, but a whole week is another. Jenna Hubbard, 14, is a Bonham district eighth grader. She and her mom spent part of her first day off at a Dairy Queen.

“I prayed about it — that the weather would be bad enough. Everyone’s like ‘Oh, it’s sleeting in Bonham.’ And God answered my prayer that we don’t have school for a whole week. So amen to that.”

McKayla Henry, 16, eating at the same lunch spot, offered a slightly different take.

“Of course I was excited, but then again, I was kind of upset that it got this far," she said. "I’m sad there are so many people actually going through this. They’re stuck in the hospital and they’re not able to get their education.”

Credit Stella M. Chavez / KERA News
Tricia Hubbard and her daughters, McKayla Henry and Jenna Hubbard, took advantage of the day off to have lunch at Dairy Queen. Schools in Bonham ISD are closed till next week because of the flu.

Mom Tricia Hubbard, who works at home, says she’s at least able to watch the kids. Both teenagers are preparing for upcoming school competitions. McKayla will focus on drill team work while Jenna pulls out her flute for this weekend’s regional competition.

“I just plan on practicing a lot — and playing Minecraft,” Jenna Hubbard said.

Tricia Hubbard says the week off puts her and a lot of families in a tough spot, but she’s not complaining.  

“I think they’ve made the right decision,” she said. “I think they’re taking the best interest of the kids and the teachers and the faculty.”

The Texas Education Agency has heard this before. Districts typically take some bad weather days off and even days for illness. Sunnyvale, just east of Dallas canceled two days of school for flu in December. 

While an entire week off sounds rare, the TEA’s DeEtta Culbertson says it hasn’t been this bad in years.

“In 2009, the state experienced an outbreak of the H1N1 flu virus. At the end of that school year, we had 33 school districts that applied for low attendance waivers and 98 districts that applied for missed instructional day waivers. We did have school districts that on average were closed three to five days due to the flu virus.” 

Besides classes, all evening activities have also been canceled or moved. District officials said that the days will not have to be made up.

Stella M. Chávez is KERA’s immigration/demographics reporter/blogger. Her journalism roots run deep: She spent a decade and a half in newspapers – including seven years at The Dallas Morning News, where she covered education and won the Livingston Award for National Reporting, which is given annually to the best journalists across the country under age 35.
Bill Zeeble has been a full-time reporter at KERA since 1992, covering everything from medicine to the Mavericks and education to environmental issues.