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Schools push safety first with swine flu

Wednesday, May 06, 2009  
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RRStar.com
Posted May 6, 2009 @ 3:30 PM

Several area schools have sent letters home to parents explaining the concern of H1N1 virus, also known as swine flu. District Web sites also are listing health tips and offering phone numbers to call for more information. Here’s what some area schools are doing to address H1N1 concerns.

Rockford School District
The Rockford School District sent a letter to parents last week stating that school officials would ask parents to describe symptoms when they call in to keep their child home from school.

More parents and staff members have been asking questions about the virus, said Mary Fisher, health services supervisor. And district officials have been in “nearly constant communication” with the Winnebago County Health Department, she said.

She’s encouraging people to practice simple protective measures, as a person would during the typical cold and flu season.

Harlem School District
The Harlem School District doesn’t have any probable or confirmed cases of H1N1 virus, according to an updated post on the district’s Web site.

“We had a potential scare, and that proved to be negative,” said Harlem School Board President Sandi Johnson.

Superintendent Julie Morris said Friday the district had one unconfirmed case.

The Harlem site also offers tips on preventing disease and good health habits.

“We’re prepared,” Johnson said.

Immanuel Lutheran School
Immanuel Lutheran School does not have any probable or confirmed cases of the H1N1 virus, or swine flu. The school is working with the Boone County Health Department and is following guidelines provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which include increased cleaning, raising awareness among students and staff and reporting all absences and the reasons for those absences to health officials.

School was in session today, said Principal Judy Schaefer. There were nine absences, none involving symptoms associated with swine flu, Schaefer said.

The school, which serves 330 students in grades pre-k through 8, did not have hot lunches delivered today, and all bus transportation was canceled. Both services are provided to Immanuel Lutheran through the Belvidere School District.

Schaefer said the lunch and bus cancellations posed little inconvenience for Immanuel Lutheran families.

“We only have about 10 students who take advantage of the bus service,” she said. “They only ride the bus home after school because our start times don’t line up in the morning.”

Rockton School District
Teachers and administrators in the Rockton School District are taking a back-to-basics mentality with their students in an effort to be proactive in preventing the flu, said Superintendent Jean Harezlak.

Staff members have been submitting district absences to the Winnebago County Health Department, but as of the end of last week, school nurses have said there’s no cause for alarm, she said.

Harezlak sent a letter home last week informing parents that no cases exist in the school’s community, and she encouraged parents to keep sick children home and also practice good hygiene.

The three-school district neighbors the Kinnikinnick School District, and the Rockton District and Kinnikinnick feed into Hononegah High School.

The Kinnikinnick and Belvidere school districts closed their doors after suspected or confirmed cases of H1N1 virus were found.

“I am very sympathetic for the people in the Kinnikinnick District. That is a hard, hard thing to do.”
Harezlak said, the end of the school year is a tough time for students to miss school because of field trips, all-school activities, and rewards promised to them for their hard work during the year, she said.

“It would be extremely disappointing,” she said. “But the No. 1 priority is safety. It’s day-by-day. I kind of hold my breath.”

Winnebago School District
This time of year is, perhaps, the worst time for students to miss school with final exams, prom and other end-of-the-year events.

The Winnebago School District also has been reporting student-symptoms, much like other area schools.

So far, principals haven’t reported any kind of crisis, said Dave Zumdahl, business manager for the district.

“Closing school is just really hard,” Zumdahl said. “At the same time, you want to be careful.”

Rockford College
Rockford College, a four-year liberal arts college with about 1,200 students and 259 students living in residential, on-campus housing, has had no probable or confirmed cases of the H1N1 virus. Classes were held today, and there are no immediate plans to cancel school this week, said Chuck Brown, the college’s director of communications and new media.

The college has asked ten students, who are student teachers in the Belvidere and Kinnikinnick school districts, to not come to campus this week, Brown said, as a precautionary measure for their safety and the rest of the college’s students and staff.

The college posted an advisory message on its Web site for students, faculty and staff last week, and has updated it as swine flu concerns rise.

Brown said the college also uses an collegewide e-mail message system to keep students and staff informed.

The college posted signs and posters on campus last week warning students and staff about the virus. The posters include information about symptoms, such as high fever and coughing, and what people should do from washing hands to avoiding people who appear to have flu-like symptoms.

Rock Valley College
Rock Valley College, a two-year community college serving about 8,000 students, is monitoring swine flu health concerns and what is happening in the community through increased attention to Health Department reports and staying in touch with other school leaders, said Nancy Chamberlain, the school’s director of communication.

“Our Department of Public Safety is in regular contact with the Winnebago County Health Department regarding the virus in our region,” Chamberlain said. “No specific communication has gone out to our students regarding the virus. Our student population is not comprised of minors, and we reserve emergency notification to our students for critical issues. We believe that these students are well-informed through the media outlets and will take precautions as the rest of the adult population.”

This article appeared at http://www.rrstar.com/belvidere/x1993047884/School-districts-using-safety-first-approach-for-swine-flu on May 4, 2009.

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