School superintendent Songy briefs board on Lake swine flu case

Michael Tortorich
Ascension Parish Superintendent of Schools Donald Songy

Songy said he received confirmation of swine flu on Sunday. He said the child was symptom-free for some 48 hours, and for that reason, he was recommended to hold classes at Lake this week.

Prior to the school opening Monday, a crew was sent to clean the entire campus, he said.

“I’d venture to say that Lake was the cleanest school in Louisiana on Monday morning,” Songy said.

Additional nurses were also on campus, and spent much of their time talking to classes about the virus, he said. Normally the school has one nurse, but three nurses were on campus Monday.

School officials also sent out releases to the local media to inform the public of the situation.

School administrators were “on top of things,” Songy said.

Officials said nearly 200 of Lake’s 1,100 students were absent Monday, and about 100 were absent on Tuesday.

Normally about 50 to 75 students are absent per day, according to public information officer Johnnie Balfantz.

Songy said the drop in absences over the two days seemed to indicate that people had realized everything was “OK at the school.”

He added that the student’s case was considered “mild.”

Officials reminded parents that students should stay home when they have fever symptoms, including a temperature of 100 degrees or higher, vomiting, diarrhea, blistery rash, heavy nasal congestion or frequent cough.

Children should also stay home if they have been diagnosed with a contagious disease.

In other business, board member Catherine Davis went over possible handbook changes discussed in the policy commitee meeting.

She said the commitee clarified definitions of “huffing,” which involves purposefully inhaling substances for getting high or altering the mind, and “sexting,” which pertains to sending or receiving sexually-explicit materials.

The board decided to take action due to increased reports of students using cell phones to send and receive sexually-explicit photos in schools.

A third proposed change clarified a student recommended for expulsion after a fourth suspension, whether it be in-school or out-of-school, would be able to appeal only the fourth suspension.

Davis said the proposed rule changes will be on the agenda for the next regular board meeting, which has been schedule for May 19 at the Ascension Parish Courthouse Annex in Gonzales.

In an unrelated matter, board member Harold Jarreau said members are looking over the results of a survey recently taken on the district’s Web site.

He said more than half of the responses were negative.

Jarreau said the board will take public opinion through a telephone survey of 25-30 questions with the help of the University of New Orleans.

“I think it’s going to be a really helpful tool for us,” Jarreau said.

In another matter, Songy and Susan Vaughn presented certificates to the first-place winners of the Special Olympics.

Several of the winners were present, and were able to have their photo taken with the superintendent.

In an unrelated matter, there was a moment of silence observed for a former Ascension Parish student who recently died.

Drew Villar, who graduated from East Ascension High School, was a sophomore at Tulane University in New Orleans. He was a finance major and a punter and kicker on the Green Wave football team. He was 20.

Board member Troy Gautreau spoke about Villar’s accomplishments and character prior to the observation.

In other news, Songy said parish high schools are set to hold graduation ceremonies. Dutchtown High’s will be on May 13, St. Amant High’s May 14, East Ascension High’s May 15 and Donaldsonville High’s also May 15.