St. Louis schools embracing high-tech methods to fight the flu

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MEHLVILLE, Mo. - More schools across the St. Louis metro area have adopted a tech-savvy way to fight the flu. It starts with sending each student home with a "smart thermometer" so parents can track symptoms in real-time.

Since it opened in the fall of 2017, MOSAIC Elementary School in the Mehlville School District has offered project-based learning where students are able to get hands-on and learn by participating. This fall, the school joined a program in hopes of proactively preventing flu season absences.

Jeni Gardner said she is thrilled with the education her two kids are getting a MOSAIC Elementary. At home, she is building upon their education by teaching her second and fourth graders good hygiene.

Second-grader Ally Gardner said her mom encourages them to wash their hands often and use hand sanitizer. Fourth-grader Matthew Gardner said his mom encourages him to wipe down his hockey mask with wet wipes after practices and games.

Last month, the school adopted new technology to help Gardner and other parents track the bugs that may be lurking around the halls. Gardner's kids brought home a smart thermometer and she downloaded the Kinsa app.

After registering her account and using Bluetooth technology to sync the thermometer with her phone, Gardner is able to see reported symptoms of her kids' classmates.

"For second grade, there was two kids sick in the past week, and then it just showed their symptoms," Gardner said. "Coughing, sneezing, one had stomach issues."

Carly Rogers, RN, BSN, and MOSAIC school nurse, said the goal is to reduce the number of student absences during this winter.

"Last cold and flu season, I saw over 2,000 visits to my health room," she said.

MOSAIC Elementary has a population of about 250 students.

Rogers applied and MOSAIC Elementary was accepted into the program. The smart thermometers were free to all participating families and staff.

Parents are able to record their child's symptoms and illnesses in real-time and receive guidance on what to do next. Temperature, diagnoses, and medications may also be tracked in the app.

The app sends the information to Rogers. The student's identifying information is confidential but Rogers is able to see symptoms and track trends.

She said the information allows her to focus on prevention by requesting custodial staff to spend extra time cleaning rooms with sick students. Rogers said she is also able to better communicate with parents because early detection is key.

More than 45 schools in Missouri have adopted this technology - about half are in the St. Louis area. The Affton School District said since it adopted the technology last year, more than 200 families are now using the app - more than double from last year. The program is offered at Mesnier Primary and Gotsch Intermediate.

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