Wisconsin school district adding breaks next school year to stop the spread of the flu

OREGON, Wis. (AP) — A southern Wisconsin school district will have three longer weekend breaks next school year after a University of Wisconsin-Madison study showed time off curbs the spread of flu.

The Oregon School District will have a four-day weekend in October, February and April, The Chippewa Herald reported . The district previously had three-day weekends during those times.

Teacher professional days were moved in order to make training more convenient and help reduce the spread of the flu, said Superintendent Brian Busler. The change will also push the end of the school year three days later.

"There's an educational value to having some breaks throughout the school year, not only from an academic standpoint but also from a medical standpoint," Busler said. "It is a lesson learned from the study."

The study, which began in 2015, found that student absences for illnesses usually come before an increase in clinic visits for the flu. School sick days can serve as a warning before a pandemic or potentially deadly outbreak, researchers said.

"There is good correlation between school absenteeism and influenza, both in the school and broadly in the community," said Dr. Jonathan Temte, of UW Health, who led the study.

School breaks won't stop the flu, but could delay it, Temte said. In some cases, doctors may recommend schools call off classes or conduct lessons online in order to prevent the transmission of the flu, he said.

"Slowing things down, in the future, allows time for development of vaccines, deployment of vaccines, deployment of antiviral agents," Temte said.

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