WARREN COUNTY - A Warren County school district shut down three schools Friday because so many students and staff were home sick.

Liberty Elementary School, Central Elementary School and the middle school in Great Meadows, part of rural Warren County, are closed. The district's website reports 59 students were out Thursday, and another dozen were sent home. Six staff members were also out.

Dr. Jagdish Chugh is a local pediatrician who has treated many of them. "Since last week, especially the last 2-3 days, we have seen an influx of patients with the flu," he said.

Chugh says closing the schools is a good way to stop the highly contagious flu virus from spreading.

Middle-schoolers Ryan and Andrew Newkirk should have been in school today but were home playing video games. Their mom, Mary Beth Newkirk, was surprised to get the call that school would be closed. "Just unbelievable,” she said. “I guess better safe than sorry."

"It's kind of a waste of a snow day because we could have gone to school," her son Ryan said.

Maintenance crews wearing masks were sanitizing classrooms and wiping down surfaces Friday.

Students are scheduled to return on Tuesday, after the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday.

Doctors are reminding students to cover their mouths when coughing and to wash their hands often.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported last week that 40 states, including New Jersey, have widespread outbreaks of the flu.