UPDATE: Schools across the Tennessee Valley are closing because of the flu. Meigs County school officials were the first to make that call in our area.

They spent several hundred dollars to buy cases of cleaning supplies. It was an all hands on deck in an effort to disinfect the schools before students return on Monday.

Students were nowhere to be found at Meigs County High School on Thursday. Classrooms sat empty with textbooks and assignments on the whiteboard.

"We were a train wreck by Wednesday afternoon," Don Roberts, Meigs County Director of Schools said.

Hundreds of students from the district's four schools stayed home Wednesday. Dozens of employees did the same.

"We have closed on one other occasion for sickness, flu related, but the numbers were never this bad," Roberts said.

The numbers added up to about a third of students and 35 staff members.

Teresa Toops is helping to change that.

"Just kill the germs. Try not to get sick," Teresa Toops, a custodian said.

She's sanitizing the buildings from desks to door knobs. Filters are also being changed in HVAC systems.

Toops worries about her granddaughter who attends the high school catching the flu.

"I tell her to wash her hands and keep Germ-X and keep your hands clean," Toops said.

The flu has not only affected students and teachers, but members of the custodial and transportation staff. That's why the director of schools and administrators have stepped in to help clean.

"We are taking every step that we can take to hopefully improve the environment for the kids when they get back," Roberts said.

It's a big task that school employees are tackling so that the flu does not return.

"Just have to clean through it and hope for the best," Toops said.

In addition to classes, Meigs County canceled all after school activities to limit the sharing of germs. Those activities will resume on Monday. 

PREVIOUS STORY: Illness in classrooms is hitting several counties hard this week.

Hamilton County reports that 176 teachers are out sick Thursday, with another 78 instructors being out because of a family illness. HCDE spokesman Tim Hensley said, "We have 3,400 teachers in the system.  We begin to look at the issue as critical when we have about 500 teachers out at one time.  We are not close to those numbers this week. 98% of classes where a teacher was out today was staffed with a sub. The other classes were covered with school personnel. We are watching the situation closely but it is manageable at this time."

READ MORE | Closings & delays

Other teachers in Hamilton County are out as well, but for routine reasons such as field trips, professional leave, and bereavement.

Schools in Bradley County, Cleveland, Meigs and McMinn Counties are also affected by illness.