An increase in the number of students out with "influenza-like illness" this week prompted Region 12 Superintendent of Schools Dr. Bruce Storm to close all schools in the district until Monday.

Dr. Storm hopes the five-day hiatus, which began Wednesday with the Veterans Day holiday, will help reverse an "upward trend of student illness." He stressed this is an "anticipatory closure" and a "precautionary measure only."

"While the number of Region 12 students absent remain relatively low in the aggregate," Dr. Storm said Tuesday, "it is the steady increase of children out with influenza-like illnesses, plus the numbers sent home over the last few days, that give us concern."

Two weeks ago, the number of students out with flu-like symptoms was in the single digits, Dr. Storm said.

By Monday, that number was up to 17. On Tuesday, 59 students in the district were out ill with flu-like symptoms. Region 12's overall student population is 1,057 students.

Dr. Storm recommended ll students remain at home during the five-day school closure and avoid any large group contact.

A full-cleaning protocol was scheduled at all Region 12 schools in Washington, Roxbury and Bridgewater from Wednesday through Friday.

School administration will reassess attendance Monday and make further determinations at that time.

In New Milford, a close eye is being kept on H1N1 absences among the district's 4,894 students, Superintendent of Schools JeanAnn Paddyfote said Tuesday.

According to school officials, there have been 7.4 percent to 11 percent absences at the town's three elementary schools.

At Sarah Noble Intermediate School, absences have been just under 7 percent, while at New Milford High School, there has been an 11 percent absence rate.

New Milford's first school-based H1N1 vaccination clinic was held at Northville Elementary School Tuesday with 104 students receiving shots.