More schools shut down because of flu outbreak

A private school in Dallas and another small school district in North Texas are shutting their doors because of the flu and other illnesses.

St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic School in Dallas said both its upper and lower school campuses were closed Wednesday evening because of an excessive number of absences due to illness.

All activities such as field trips, sporting events and after school meetings were also canceled.

School leaders said they decided to focus on recuperating and cleaning after talking it over with the Catholic Diocese of Dallas and Dallas County Health and Human Services.

“Our goal is to promote the health and wellness of our student and faculty population during this stage of the influenza season. Dallas County recommends closing the school for 5 days as it will slow down transmission and curtail the spread of these illnesses by encouraging the social distancing of students and staff,” the school said in a letter to parents.

On a typical Thursday morning, the halls at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic School in East Dallas would be filled with students and staff.

Instead, both campuses look abandoned.

“School nurse is sick, several teachers are sick,” said Annette Gonzales Taylor, with the Catholic Diocese of Dallas.

She said about 90 students and staff are out sick, some with flu-like symptoms.

That's 10 percent of the school's population.

So administrators decided to shut the campuses down temporarily to get a handle on the problem.

“School administrators rely on the county health department consultation with them, and when they reach that 10 percent school population mark, I think that's when they make the decision,” Gonzales Taylor explained.

She said Dallas County health officials recommended closing the upper and lower school campuses for five days.

“That's to let all of these illnesses run their course, so when the students come back on Tuesday, they'll be healthier and return to a sanitized environment,” she added.

Both campuses will undergo a deep cleaning, which includes sanitizing all surfaces students and staff come into contact with.

A facility member came back to the lower campus Thursday afternoon to pick up the school's two pet guinea pigs.

“I couldn't leave them in for four days,” they said.

The closure also means no activities, including athletics, field trips, and extracurricular activities, until Tuesday, when classes resume as normal.

“These students will only miss one day of school because they had a half day scheduled for Thursday, and Monday is President's Day, so they were going to get that off any way,” Gonzales Taylor added.

The Catholic Diocese of Dallas operates 29 schools. As of Thursday, St. Thomas is the only one forced to shut down due to illness.

Grand Saline ISD in Van Zandt will also be closed until Tuesday because too many of its 1,100 students are sick. The district said the kids will not have to make up the lost days.

Earlier this week, Rio Vista ISD in Johnson County closed for a week because of the flu.