NORTON — Norton USD 211 has canceled all classes and activities Thursday and Friday, citing widespread illness of flu-like symptoms.

As of Wednesday morning, approximately 15 percent of the student body was absent for illness, with more students sick at the junior high and high school buildings, Superintendent Phil Wilson said.

Norton Community High School had an absentee rate of approximately 18 percent, he said.

“It’s either flu symptoms, or diagnosed flu in several cases,” Wilson said. “It was going up. Last Friday, we didn’t hardly have anything as far as numbers. We had a bit in the junior high. Then on Monday, it started blowing up.”

District officials plan to use the four-day weekend to thoroughly clean all of the district’s school buildings, he said.

The district also has had reported cases of strep throat.

All athletic and extracurricular activities scheduled from Thursday through the weekend will be postponed and rescheduled for a later date.

The district announced its closures Wednesday afternoon in an effort to give parents and guardians time to make other arrangements, Wilson said. If possible, residents are encouraged to avoid crowds and gatherings in an effort to slow the spread of illness.

“We needed to try to do something to try to prevent it from really getting bad,” he said. “This was our best option, I guess.”

Russell schools also canceled classes and activities Wednesday due to extreme illness.