The Real Cost of Illness-Related School Absenteeism

Feb 4, 2020


Sign up for our Nilfisk newsletter to stay updated on industry news

The new year is off to a roaring start, and you know what that means — flu season! According to the latest CDC estimates, almost every U.S. state and territory is reporting widespread flu activity.

As you know, the flu hits schools particularly hard. This year has already seen multiple school closures due to high rates of flu-related absences. And we probably haven’t seen the worst of it — flu activity typically peaks in February.

You may have heard that every year nearly 22 million school days are lost to the common cold and 38 million to the flu. These numbers are startling, but they’re also from 1996! Given that last year’s flu was one of the worst on record and this year’s is likely to eclipse it, the real numbers are likely higher.

The high cost of absenteeism

  • Public school teachers in the U.S. miss 9 or 10 days of school every year. This has implications for both student learning and school finances:
    • Researchers have found that being taught by a substitute for 10 days a year has a larger impact on a child’s math scores than changing schools and that being taught by a substitute for even one day is more detrimental than replacing an average teacher with a terrible one.
    • The annual national cost of teacher absenteeism is estimated at $25.2 billion, with $4 billion due to stipends for substitutes and associated administrative costs.
  • Poor health is one of the main causes of chronic absenteeism (missing 15+ days of school) among students. The U.S. Department of Education calls chronic absenteeism “a hidden educational crisis” that leads not only to higher dropout rates, but also poorer outcomes later in life. In the 2015-2016 school year, about 1 in 6 children was chronically absent.

Reducing flu-related absenteeism

There is, of course, no way to prevent the flu, but you can reduce its impact in your school by keeping it from spreading! And the best way to do this is through cleaning.

The CDC provides these recommendations for how to clean and disinfect schools to help slow the spread of the flu:

  1. Know the difference between cleaning, disinfecting, and sanitizing
  2. Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that are touched often
  3. Perform routine cleaning and disinfecting
  4. Clean and disinfect correctly
  5. Use products safely
  6. Handle waste properly

For more information, see the CDC’s “Guidance for School Administrators to Help Reduce the Spread of Seasonal Influenza in K-12 Schools.”

In the face of what’s expected to be a Goliath of a flu season, cleaning is your slingshot.

Nilfisk equipment creates a healthier school environment and saves you money by keeping your school clean. Learn more about partnering with Nilfisk.

Stay Connected



Nilfisk is one of the world's leading manufacturers of professional cleaning equipment.

Nilfisk America

9435 Winnetka Ave N
Brooklyn Park, MN 55445

Phone: 800-989-2235
Fax: 800-989-6566

Copyright © Nilfisk Group 2020