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School Absenteeism Due to Illness: Fact or Fiction? Either way - don't leave it to chance!

School absenteeism due to illness is not fiction.  In the United States, there are approximately 164 MILLION lost school days each year among students in kindergarten to grade 12 which averages out to 4.5 sick days per student per year.  In fact, some studies have shown that kindergarteners on average have 12 colds a year, while older kids develop about seven.

For many, September marks the return to school.  Some parents will be celebrating the fact that life can again get back to some semblance of a routine while other parents may be dreading the juggling of extracurricular activities.  For us at Sterile Environments, it signifies the potential start of a 10-month cycle of sickness.

In a society where school reimbursement is directly related to attendance this can mean the loss of a significant portion of the schools funding.  Reimbursement numbers vary from district to district, but generally average $30 – $50 per student.  To a school district with a student population of 50,000 that receives a $30/student reimbursement, a daily absenteeism rate of 1% can mean a loss of $15,000/day.  Assuming that same district of 50,000 students averages 4.5 sick days each, by the end of the school year we are talking a lot of money – $6.75 MILLION to be exact!

The effect of implementing an infectious disease program in schools, much like hospitals, to reduce infections has been well documented by a number of studies. Think about it, a school environment is an enclosed facility that can contain up to 500 people or more through the course of any given day most of that population will touch the same surfaces. All it takes is 1% of that population to be infected by a pathogen (cold, flu, virus, MRSA, Pink eye) and leave it upon a surface for someone else to “pick up”. Hand hygiene and janitorial programs alone cannot combat this aggressive method of spreading illnesses.

The study found that the water fountain handle and the manual pencil sharpener, both of which are used by numerous students throughout the day were two of the most bacterially contaminated classroom surfaces.  The sink faucet handle, the paper towel dispenser and the student desktops were most often contaminated by  Influenza A virus and Norovirus was frequently found on these surfaces as well.

As you prepare to send your kids back to school ask yourself one of two questions: how much sick time did I save over the summer to use this Fall as bacteria or viruses invade my home, and what can I do to prepare my children to battle these vicious little bugs?  The truth is keeping them healthy throughout the entire school year may be unrealistic. But you can take a great step forward by providing state-of-the-art antimicrobial protection from the time our students step on the school bus in the morning, study at communal desks, perform in athletic facilities and return home; contact Sterile Environments to learn how.




  1. pamela lynch, September 13, 2013
    This is really interesting. I am going to contact our school system. As a mother of two children who puts a lot of effort into keeping her children well, especially during the school year, it is really important to me to know that the schools they attend are doing their part to keep the environment clean. Seems to me this is a necessary solution that would also be cost effective for schools to invest in. Reply