Sick days help keep the germs away

Students urged to stay home sick despite academic stress


Stephanie Bernzweig

According to a Harbinger survey of 160 students conducted from Dec. 12 to Dec. 15, 88% of students that missed three or more days of school found the work very stressful. Eighty-seven percent of respondents have attended school while sick.

Satoshi Conway, Staff Writer

Although many students attend school while ill due to the stress of make-up work, faculty urges students to stay home and to take advantage of the resources Algonquin offers to help them focus on their health.

Despite district guidelines requiring students and teachers to stay home when ill, many students feel academically pressured to attend school while sick so work doesn’t pile up. According to a Harbinger survey of 160 students conducted through Google Forms from Dec. 12 to Dec. 15, 87% of respondents say they have attended school this year while sick in order to avoid falling behind.

Like many others, junior Willow Paradise has struggled with the impact of illness this school year. Paradise said missing just one day of school adds an extra three hours of homework: something that discourages them and many other students from staying home while sick.

“I do [feel more obligated to attend school while sick] because I don’t want to miss a lot of work or even face disciplinary action for having too many absences,” Paradise said.

According to the 2022-2023 health guidelines, students should stay home when they have a fever of over 100 degrees. For other viruses like RSV, the Flu or COVID-19, after testing positive, students must stay home for the required time and must be symptom-free for 24 hours before returning to school in order to reduce the spread of illness.

According to the Algonquin Student Handbook, the make up work policy is largely left in the hands of individual teachers. However, the handbook does state that the amount of time to make up the work should be  twice as long as the duration of the absence, meaning that if a student is sick for one day they may have only two days to make-up missed work in addition to staying up to date on current work. 

“I feel like students may come back when they still have some symptoms because they want to get back into the groove of things,” school nurse Heather Allen said.

Students often prioritize staying up to date on academics, as opposed to taking time for their health. According to the survey, 88% of students that missed three or more days of school found the work very stressful.

Although students may feel behind after missing an extended period of school due to sickness, Algonquin offers support to help students get caught up and learn missed information. Guidance counselors can help students coordinate their make-up work schedule and deadlines. 

Among other resources, ARHS offers the Access program, which provides students with a space to transition and focus on getting caught up on work in the school building before rejoining their classes.

“I don’t feel like a lot of people don’t know about Access, but when they do, they are able to fully utilize its resources,” Access teacher John Cahill said.

The supportive environment in the Access classroom helps alleviate stress for students who have been absent for an extended period of time.

“I find when students get to me, it automatically becomes a stress free environment,” Cahill said.

“Students have to realize [makeup work] won’t all happen overnight; it will take them a week or two,” Head of Guidance Lisa Connery said. “Students probably don’t have the physical energy and probably require a little more sleep.hey need to pause and rest otherwise they could relapse.”

According to Connery, at the end of the term, if a student has an extended absence and misses a large test or project, they should reach out to their guidance counselor if they haven’t already done so. Counselors can determine if a student qualifies for an incomplete grade, where the grade for the term is marked ”Incomplete,” and the student can then finish the assignments days or weeks later, depending on the situation, and the grade can be changed when the work is complete.

“The biggest thing is don’t be afraid to go and see their guidance counselors,” Connery said. “We are here to help and are available anytime; counselors can help out whenever you are stressed.”