School & District Management

N.Y.C. Officials Urge Calm as More Schools Close

By The Associated Press — May 18, 2009 3 min read
BRIC ARCHIVE

Four more public schools and one Catholic school closed Monday as New York City officials sought to tamp down fears of a widening swine flu outbreak that has claimed the life of a popular school administrator.

“The good news is everyone is working together to make sure everyone stays calm,” Schools Chancellor Joel Klein said.

But Nukeesha Swinnie, a public school parent and a graduate of the school whose assistant principal, Mitchell Wiener, died Sunday, said the city was not doing enough to slow the spread of the virus.

“They should close all the schools,” a tearful Swinnie said at the makeshift memorial to Wiener at Intermediate School 238. “Don’t wait for it to start.”

The city Health Department said four Queens schools in three buildings were closing for up to five school days starting Tuesday. Earlier Monday, a private Catholic boys’ school in Manhattan, St. David’s School, decided on its own to close.

The latest closings come on top of Sunday’s announced closing of four public schools and a Catholic school, bringing the total to 16 schools.

Hospital and city officials say complications besides the virus probably played a part in Wiener’s death, but his family has said he suffered only from gout, a joint disease.

Autopsy results were awaiting further tests, said Ellen Borakove, a spokeswoman for the medical examiner’s office.

Funeral arrangements hadn’t been announced Monday, and Wiener’s son Adam asked a reporter Monday to respect the family’s wish to grieve privately.

Wiener’s death was the sixth swine-flu-related fatality in the U.S.; officials have also reported three in Texas, one in Washington state and one in Arizona.

Wiener had taught in New York City for decades, starting as a substitute teacher in 1978. Since 2007, he had been an assistant principal at I.S. 238, also known as the Susan B. Anthony Intermediate School, in the Hollis neighborhood of Queens.

Swinnie said she attended the school, as did two of her children. She said one son, now 17, was “a rough kid” but Wiener took him in hand and made sure he passed.

“Mr. Wiener took a lot of time with him,” she said. “He calmed him down.”

As of Monday the swine flu virus has sickened more than 8,800 people in 40 countries, including more than 70 deaths.

The school closures in New York City affected more than 14,000 students. New York has the nation’s largest public school system, with 1.1 million students. All but two of the closed schools are public.

No one else in the city besides Wiener has become seriously ill from the virus. Most people sickened from swine flu, or the H1N1 virus, have complained of mild, seasonal flu-like symptoms such as fever, cough, sore throat, body aches and fatigue.

The city health department said it is monitoring unusual clusters of flu cases as it works to stop the spread of the virus. Officials hope the school closures will help slow the spread of the virus “within the individual school communities,” Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden said.

Klein joined union officials at Intermediate School 73 in Queens to urge calm.

But some staff members at there said the school should have been closed.

Teaching assistant Aurora Benitez said 10 to 12 students in her classroom alone were absent Monday.

“I think they should close down the school,” Benitez said. “Why wait for students to get sick to shut it down? But it’s not up to us.”

Asked Monday if the city had acted too slowly in closing schools, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said, “There is no right answer. We’ll take a look when there is a cluster, an outbreak of an abnormal number of kids coming to see the school nurse with confirmed fever.”

Gov. David Paterson said state school and health officials are working to create a way to quickly gather information about absent students so potential outbreaks can be caught and schools closed before illness spreads.

New York City schools scan attendance figures into a database so that by the end of the day, officials know attendance citywide and can get the information quickly to health officials, said Margie Feinberg, a spokeswoman for city’s Department of Education.

Health officials urged people with underlying health conditions to see their doctors if they believe they may have been exposed to swine flu. That includes people with diabetes, people whose immune systems are compromised because of certain cancer medications, pregnant women, elderly people and infants.

Copyright 2009 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Culturally Relevant Pedagogy to Advance Educational Equity
Schools are welcoming students back into buildings for full-time in-person instruction in a few short weeks and now is the perfect time to take a hard look at both our practices and systems to build
Content provided by PowerMyLearning
Classroom Technology Webinar Making Big Technology Decisions: Advice for District Leaders, Principals, and Teachers
Educators at all levels make decisions that can have a huge impact on students. That’s especially true when it comes to the use of technology, which was activated like never before to help students learn
Professional Development Webinar Expand Digital Learning by Expanding Teacher Training
This discussion will examine how things have changed and offer guidance on smart, cost-effective ways to expand digital learning efforts and train teachers to maximize the use of new technologies for learning.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management A View From the Hot Seat: How One District Leader Is Confronting COVID-19's Latest Twists
An assistant superintendent in Texas talks about how to keep the pandemic in check for the new school year even as the Delta variant spreads.
9 min read
Jeanie Johnson, assistant superintendent for administration, is a kind of the air traffic controller in Midway ISD, absorbing the glut of information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Texas education Agency, Tex. Gov. Greg Abbott, Waco-McLennan County, Public Health District and others, to help the Waco School District devise safety protocols and plans for students. She’s doing so amid rapidly changing and sometimes conflicting guidance. She talks about what she learned over the last year and that’s helping the school district prepare for the second COVID-19 school year.
Jeanie Johnson, assistant superintendent for administrative services, helps lead the COVID-19 response for the Midway Independent School District in Texas.
Eric Guel for Education Week
School & District Management Opinion Q&A Collections: Education Policy Issues
Posts on the key education policy issues from the past 10 years.
13 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
iStock/Getty
School & District Management Opinion Leaders, Your Communication Plan Needs to Start With Your Staff
Staff members are the point of contact for thousands of interactions with the public each day. They can’t be the last to know of changes.
Gladys I. Cruz
2 min read
A staff meeting around a table.
Vanessa Solis/Education Week and Getty Images
School & District Management L.A. Unified to Require Testing of Students, Staff Regardless of Vaccination Status
The policy change in the nation's second-largest school district comes amid rising coronavirus cases, largely blamed on the Delta variant.
Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times
4 min read
L.A. schools interim Sup Megan K. Reilly visits Fairfax High School's "Field Day" event to launch the Ready Set volunteer recruitment campaign to highlight the nationwide need for mentors and tutors, to prepare the country's public education students for the upcoming school year. The event coincides with National Summer Learning Week, where U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona is highlighting the importance of re-engaging students and building excitement around returning to in-person learning this fall. high school, with interim LAUSD superintendent and others. Fairfax High School on Wednesday, July 14, 2021 in Los Angeles, CA.
In this July 14, 2021, photo, Los Angeles Unified School District interim Superintendent Megan K. Reilly speaks at an event at Fairfax High School in Los Angeles. Reilly announced a new district policy Thursday requiring all students and employees of the Los Angeles school district to take weekly coronavirus tests regardless of their vaccination status.
Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via TNS