Federal

Students Get ‘Flu Days’ Even as CDC Reconsiders

By The Associated Press — May 04, 2009 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Federal health officials said Monday they were rethinking their advice that schools consider closing for as long as two weeks because of swine flu, a recommendation that has already given an unscheduled vacation to 330,000 children in schools nationwide.

Shutting down schools is intended to keep infections from spreading between students and then out into the community, said Dr. Richard Besser, acting chief of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But in the cases of swine flu in schools, the virus was apparently already circulating in the community, he said.

“We are looking at our school closure guidance,” Besser said during a briefing for reporters in Atlanta. “And we’re having very active discussions about whether it’s time to revise that.”

One option would be to “really push hard on the personal responsibility,” Besser said, encouraging parents and teachers to look out for sick kids and insist they stay home if they’re sick.

See Also

View a collection of resources for schools on dealing with swine flu.

Besser cited the example of Seattle, where health officials have decided they won’t routinely recommend that schools close if there’s a suspected case of swine flu. Instead, they want students with flu-like symptoms to stay home for seven days.

Even the New York City school that was the epicenter of the nation’s outbreak reopened Monday after a mere weeklong shutdown. Students at St. Francis Preparatory School, a private Roman Catholic high school in Queens, returned to classes with advice to use hand sanitizer and wash their hands more frequently.

As many as 1,000 people connected with the school fell ill with flu symptoms after a group of students returned from a spring break trip to Mexico. The school had the largest swine flu outbreak in the country, with 45 confirmed cases.

“It’s a little nerve-racking, being back in school, knowing that there was a swine flu outbreak in school,” said junior Paulina Janowiec, 17. “But it’s good to be back.”

Last week, the CDC said it might be prudent to close a school for as long as 14 days if there were suspected cases, noting that children are contagious longer than adults do and have more social contacts. But officials also stressed they would defer to the expertise of local authorities.

New York City health officials said they consulted frequently with school administrators to determine when St. Francis should reopen after hundreds of students fell ill at school April 23-24.

“Students and faculty were away from school for nine days, which is well beyond the incubation period for influenza,” said Dr. Scott Harper, an epidemiologist with the city’s Health Department.

An estimated 533 schools enrolling about 330,000 children had closed across the country as of Monday, the U.S. Education Department said. The schools are in two dozen states including New York, which at 90 has more confirmed cases than any other, officials said.

“We’re planning it day by day right now,” said Brit Brown, whose 8-year-old son, Truman, has been home since his Milwaukee school closed last Thursday.

Brown and his wife each took a day off work last week. On Monday, they sent their second-grader to his grandparents’ home and on Tuesday planned to drop him off at the home of a friend whose school also had closed.

In Arizona, all 10 public schools in the border city of Nogales canceled classes this week after a student tested positive for swine flu. Deer Park, N.Y., closed seven schools enrolling more than 4,400 kids.

In Massachusetts, the Academy of Notre Dame in Tyngsborough, about 35 miles northwest of Boston, canceled classes and extracurricular activities for the entire week because one student has a probable case.

In New York, 204 of St. Francis’ 2,700 students were out sick Monday. Brother Leonard Conway, the school principal, said that students “have a lot of work to do” to make up the lost classroom time and that final exams will start five days later than usual, on June 16.

“I’m just delighted and thank God that we’re getting back to normal,” he said.

The school flushed the air conditioning system and gave the building a complete scrubdown, among other safety precautions.

“I’m feeling great now,” said returning 16-year-old Ivy Buchelli, who had suffered fever, chills and body aches. “After the long break, I’m glad to see everyone else and how they’re doing.”

“I’m just hoping the school’s clean,” she added.

Related Tags:

Associated Press writers Deepti Hajela and Frank Eltman contributed to this report.

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


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


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
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
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
School & District Management Webinar
Ensuring Continuity of Learning: How to Prepare for the Next Disruption
Across the country, K-12 schools and districts are, again, considering how to ensure effective continuity of learning in the face of emerging COVID variants, politicized debates, and more. Learn from Alexandria City Public Schools superintendent
Content provided by Class
Teaching Profession Live Online Discussion What Have We Learned From Teachers During the Pandemic?
University of California, Santa Cruz, researcher Lora Bartlett and her colleagues spent months studying how the pandemic affected classroom teachers. We will discuss the takeaways from her research not only for teachers, but also for

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

Federal Feds to Probe Whether Texas Ban on School Mask Mandates Violates Disability Rights Laws
The Education Department has already opened investigations in six other states that ban universal school mask requirements.
2 min read
A staff member holds the door open for kids on the first day of school at Goodwin Frazier Elementary School in New Braunfels, Texas on Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020.
A staff member holds the door open at Goodwin Frazier Elementary School in New Braunfels, Texas in 2020. This year, Texas has prohibited school districts from requiring all students to wear masks.
Mikala Compton/Herald-Zeitung via AP
Federal New Federal Team to Work on Puerto Rico School Improvement, Oversight
The Puerto Rico Education Sustainability Team will focus on creating better learning environments and improving financial management.
3 min read
Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona visits the Emilio Delgado School in Corozal on June 30, 2021 during a visit to Puerto Rico.
Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona visits the Emilio Delgado School in Corozal on June 30, 2021 during a visit to Puerto Rico.
Teresa Canino Rivera/GDA via AP
Federal Pandemic Tests Limits of Cardona's Collaborative Approach as Education Secretary
He's sought the image of a veteran educator among former peers, but COVID has forced him to take a tough stance toward some state leaders.
10 min read
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona and Schools Chancellor Meisha Porter speak to Mia Arias, 10, during their visit to P.S. 5 Port Morris, a Bronx elementary school, Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021 in New York.
U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona and Schools Chancellor Meisha Porter speak to Mia Arias, 10, during a visit to P.S. 5 Port Morris, a Bronx elementary school, last month.
Brittainy Newman/AP
Federal White House Launches Hispanic Education Initiative Led by Miguel Cardona
President Joe Biden said his administration intends to address the "systemic causes" of educational disparities faced by Hispanic students.
2 min read
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona writes down and draws positive affirmations on poster board with students during his visit to P.S. 5 Port Morris, a Bronx elementary school, Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021 in New York.
U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona visits students in New York City at P.S. 5 Port Morris, a Bronx elementary school in the Bronx last month.
Brittainy Newman/AP