East Texas schools close as illness spreads

Associated Press

TYLER -- High student absence rates associated with a flu-like illness spreading in East Texas have prompted several small districts to shut down. The trend has apparently reached Tyler, closing one private school early for the Thanksgiving holidays.

St. Gregory Catholic Elementary School on Monday reported 28 percent, or 101 students, absent out of 359 students, said Principal Kathy Harry. Gilmer Independent School District, located about 30 miles northeast of Tyler, closed Monday after 601 of its students had been sent home by the end of the school day with flulike symptoms.

"In my 20 years of school, I have never seen a district close, but then again I have never seen this kind of sickness either," Gilmer Superintendent Rick Albrigton said in today's editions of the Tyler Morning Telegraph.

"Doctors said this was extremely virulent, so we made the decision to close until next week." Albrigton said the Monday spike in the rate of absenteeism rose close to 25 percent.

Union Grove Independent School District will also be closed until Monday after the district saw 18 percent of its student population out due to illness.

Earlier, Winona ISD closed because 23 percent of students and 12 teachers were absent, while Big Sandy remains closed until next week after absenteeism reached 25 percent.

Carlisle ISD, about 25 miles southeast of Tyler, closed last month due to a high rate of absenteeism.