- Dozens of Rhinelander students called in sick, forcing the district to shut down early last month. But
teachers weren't immune either. It got so bad that there weren't enough substitute teachers on hand to
fill in for the sick staff. The district is now recruiting more subs to be better prepared for another
Rhinelander schools went into the year with what they thought was a solid plan. But director
of instructions Terri Maney says nature had other plans.
"The pertussis did not only affect students, it affected staff," says Maney.
Students and teachers started getting sick in mid-December. Maney says they went into this school year with more substitute teachers than ever before. But they never planned for a pertussis outbreak. At one point, one in five students contracted the disease along with teachers calling in too.
"We had pretty much depleted our sub pool," said Maney.
Rhinelander canceled three extra days of class before winter break. Since the outbreak, the district began recruiting more substitutes to avoid having to cancel school again.
"When you have such a high need, they get used up pretty quickly," said Maney.
The district is now paying closer attention to students with symptoms of pertussis. There have been just
two confirmed cases since January 9.
"But because it is so easily communal we wanted to make sure we are protecting the students, staff, and community from further spreading the disease," explained Maney.
High school nurse Kerri Schmidt told us that it takes up to two weeks to fully confirm if a person with the
"Pertussis is a disease that begins with cold-like symptoms. So it can be very difficult to identify initially," Schmidt said. "Many people don't even realize they have pertussis."
The district now has 128 subs available, all of whom are shared with other districts. Maney says any bachelor's degree is required to substitute teach.