I am writing to inform you that the rumor that Broadalbin-Perth Schools are closed because of a large number of students with H1N1 (swine) flu is simply that: A rumor.
All schools are open and fully staffed, and to date we are not aware of any laboratory-confirmed cases of H1N1 in our community.
Like other school districts across New York State, we are seeing an increase in student absentee rates in general, as well as a moderate increase in the number of students who are reporting to the school nurse with flu-like symptoms.
I want to assure you that we are continuing to monitor the situation in our schools and will continue to work closely with our school physician, school nurses and the local health department to provide the safest learning environment for our students. We are mindful of the fact that the cold/flu season has started earlier than usual, and younger age groups seem to be affected at higher rates. Thus, our students and staff are encouraged to follow some key strategies for preventing colds and flu.
For example, students at all four of our schools are given time throughout the day, and before eating, to wash their hands thoroughly. Washing hands with soap and water is still considered the most effective way to prevent the spread of illness. Hand sanitizers are also available in all four schools for both student and staff use. Our maintenance staff continues its daily routine of sanitizing all parts of our buildings according to standards established by our local and state health departments.
Our school nurses are on the lookout for students with flu-like symptoms. Students who have these symptoms are sent home for recuperation and to prevent the spread of the flu. When parents/guardians call the school to report that their children are sick, they will be asked if the child has any flu-like symptoms. Please understand that providing this information is completely voluntary. We are collecting the data at the request of local and state health departments and to track levels and types of illness in the district.
Keep in mind that any future decisions to close schools because of an outbreak of influenza-like illness will be made in partnership with local and state health officials and our school physician. There is no “specific number” that would automatically trigger a decision to close schools. Rather, several factors would be considered including:
- whether we have sufficient staff in place to adequately educate the number of students in attendance;
- absentee trends in our schools and neighboring districts;
- the projected length and severity of the flu season in our area; and
- the role our schools might be asked to play in assisting health authorities with dissemination of information and vaccinations as they become available.
If you have any questions or concerns, please call your building principal or me. You may also refer to the district’s Web site at www.bpcsd.org for more information about H1N1 (swine) flu.