Saints ‘Flu’ hits Hancock, Bay area schools

The Saints may be based in New Orleans, but their Super Bowl victory Sunday sparked a new childhood illness that quickly spread all the way across the state line.

In both of Hancock County’s public school systems, Saints Flu caused student attendance to plummet the day after the Saints slapped the Indianapolis Colts with a 31-17 defeat.

In the Bay-Waveland School District, officials said 282 students failed to show up for school Monday. In the larger Hancock County School District, 86 percent of the student population reported to Monday classes – meaning that 603 did not.

For the county system, that was a full 8 percent below normal attendance levels. “We normally run around 94 percent” attendance, Hancock County School Superintendent Alan Dedeaux said.

In the Bay-Waveland District, Superintendent Rebecca Ladner compared post-Super Bowl attendance to numbers of youngsters who reported to school the prior Monday, Feb, 1. That day, she said, the district’s schools combined had only 88 absences.

The numbers mean that Bay-Waveland’s Feb. 1 absentee rate of 5 percent skyrocketed to
16 percent on Feb. 8, the day after the Saints win.

Of course, not all of Monday’s absences were sparked by the Super Bowl. Some were no doubt caused by legitimate illnesses, family emergencies, or other factors.

But looking even deeper, Bay-Waveland district officials determined that on the Monday following Super Bowl 2009, the absentee rate was only 7 percent.

And Dedeaux chalked up many of the absences to “a little extra celebration” over the first-ever Super Bowl win by the Saints. “The excitement was probably just a little overwhelming for some folks,” he said.

At Monday’s meeting of the Bay-Waveland School Board, Ladner was a bit more circumspect when giving her numbers report.

“It was interesting to me to see the change in attendance,” she said.

BY: J.R. Welsh

The Sea Coast Echo

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