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Schools Rethink Attendance Awards

A perfect attendance record has long been a prize-worthy feat, but this year’s severe outbreaks of both the norovirus and the flu have school administrators rethinking award policies.

The appeal of an attendance award, which requires no absences, no tardies, and no early sign-outs, is so strong for some children that they have been coming to class even when they’re sick, exacerbating these epidemics.

Round Meadow Elementary School in California is one school considering a suspension of its perfect attendance program for the 2013-2014 school year.

PLUS: Protect Your Family from the Norovirus

Despite the Round Meadow’s best efforts to encourage sick kids to stay home, “we think there are probably people who are sending their kids to school when they shouldn’t,” principal Jeremy Resnick told Today.

Contagious diseases like the flu spread quickly in close environments with shared surfaces – like classrooms and hallways – so schools are right to worry. But does deemphasizing the importance of coming to school defeat the purpose?

Plus: Is My Child Too Sick for School?

After the H1N1 outbreak in 2009, many schools altered their existing programs, giving prizes for excellent or improved attendance over perfection. This slight change combatted both chronic absences and the spread of disease, and could accordingly be used as an example for schools like Round Meadow.

If you’re questioning whether or not to send your kid to school, the Centers for Disease Control recommend people with the flu or flu-like symptoms stay home until their fever has dropped below 100 degrees for 24 consecutive hours without medicine. The CDC also recommends immunization and frequent hand washing as the first lines of defense against influenza.

Have you ever sent your child to school when they were sick? What do you think of perfect attendance awards?