Reducing school absenteeism year round

School Absenteeism: A Year-Round Challenge That Can Be Overcome

Mark Rundle


By Mark Rundle

Market Development Manager, GOJO Industries

There are a lot of reasons why students and teachers would stay home from school more frequently during the winter months, but absenteeism is a year-round issue for K-12 schools. In fact, illness is responsible for at least 144 million lost school days annually, which has been connected with negative impacts on student performance levels.1

While administrators typically greet this increase in absenteeism as an inevitable side effect of the cold weather and runny noses, school absenteeism is a challenge no matter the time in the school year. And, while it certainly is an uphill battle, reducing absenteeism rates is possible.

More and more schools are discovering the power of a focused hand hygiene program to help reduce the spread of germs that can cause illness—and the number of kids and teachers staying home sick.2,3

The #1 Myth About Hand Hygiene in K-12 Schools

School administrators assume that kids will be absent no matter what; that the spread of illness-causing germs in the classroom environment is inevitable. After all, when 74% of parents have admitted to sending their child to school sick, it seems like there’s no way to control the spread of germs in the close quarters of a classroom or cafeteria.  

People think “students already have access to soap and water, so hand hygiene isn’t the problem.” But with all the demands of a busy school day, constantly washing after every cough or sneeze is just not practical. Plus, studies have shown that only 53% of students wash their hands after bathroom use and only 18% use soap4. So even though the tools are in place, they are not necessarily being used in the most effective way to prevent the spread of germs.

How to Reduce Absenteeism Rates in Your School

Many K-12 schools could benefit from a program focused on making trusted PURELL® hand hygiene products available in high-traffic, high-impact areas such as the cafeteria, main office, restrooms, and throughout the school. Ideally, PURELL® Advanced Hand Sanitizer would be available in or near classrooms, libraries, and other learning areas so hand hygiene is always accessible after a sneeze, before a snack, or at other moments throughout the school day.

A Comprehensive Hand Hygiene Solution Made Easy

It’s tempting to view the effects of illness and absenteeism as “just the way it is,” but schools can help prevent the spread of germs by implementing a comprehensive hand hygiene program. The key is to make it simple and easy for students, staff, and visitors to keep their hands clean.

The PURELL HEALTHY HANDS CAMPAIGN™ is helping to reduce absenteeism for both students and teachers by making trusted hand hygiene products available in schools and providing educational tools to make healthy habits part of the curriculum. Components of the program include:

  • PURELL® Advanced Hand Sanitizer
  • PURELL® Hand Sanitizing Wipes
  • Hygiene-related lesson plans and activities

You can help reduce your school’s absenteeism rate. Contact GOJO today to learn how your district can join the PURELL HEALTHY HANDS CAMPAIGN™ and benefit from our industry-leading products, dispensers, programs, and total solutions.

1 Benson, V. and Marano, MA. 1998. National Center for Health Statistics. Vital and Health Statistics. Current Estimates from the National Health Interview Survey.
2 Effect of Hand Sanitizer Use on Elementary School Absenteeism. Hammond B, Ali Y, Fendler E, Dolan M, Donovan S. https://www.purell.com/school-absenteeism
3 The Effect of a Comprehensive Handwashing Program on Absenteeism in Elementary Schools. Guinan M, McGuckin M, Ali Y. The effect of a comprehensive handwashing program on absenteeism in elementary schools. American Journal of Infection Control. 2002;30(4):217-220. http://www.ajicjournal.org/article/S0196-6553(02)68131-3/abstract
4 Guinan, M., M. McGuckin, and A. Sevareid. 2000. Who Washes Hands After Using The Bathroom. American Journal of Infection Control 28: 424-25.

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