District prepares for H1N1 virus

Parents wary of swine flu have been keeping their children out of class, educators say. Officials stress keeping clean habits.

October 13, 2009|By Candice Baker

As the H1N1 influenza virus, or swine flu, begins to affect area schools, administrators and teachers are trying to get the word out on how to stop the flu from spreading.

Twenty UC Irvine students have contracted swine flu since Sept. 1.

As of Tuesday, two schools in the Newport-Mesa Unified School District — College Park Elementary in Costa Mesa and Lincoln Elementary in Corona del Mar — have seen more than 10% of their students call in absent since late last week. However, school and district officials Tuesday couldn’t say for sure whether an H1N1 outbreak was the cause of the high number of absences.

At College Park, 13 out of 18 students in one second-grade class either called in sick or were sent home sick. Forty-eight students school-wide were out sick Friday.


For College Park Principal Julie McCormick, fears of such an outbreak have hit her personally; her daughter, a Corona del Mar High School student, was diagnosed with swine flu Tuesday.

“She’s doing fine,” McCormick said. “And the second-grade class is recovering. We’re very, very cautious about sending them back before they’re completely well. There’s no reason to risk relapse. People’s health is what matters most.”

McCormick said teachers and staff are emphasizing clean habits like washing hands frequently, and no touching above the neck.

School representatives called every parent to calm them down and talk about the situation in their native language, McCormick said; 65% of College Park parents speak Spanish. Letters went home in English and Spanish; the latter version was crafted Monday by the district’s translator.

PTA President Michelle Pommier “cleaned out the shelves at Target” to buy large bottles of hand sanitizer for every classroom, she said.

And the district sent three maintenance and operations workers to College Park Friday to sterilize every door handle, counter top, faucet and desktop, McCormick said.

Both students and staff have contracted swine flu this school year, but exact numbers are unavailable, district spokeswoman Laura Boss said. There have been no reports in the district of fatalities or severe illnesses, she said.

“This is an issue that affects us all, so we feel strongly about keeping our schools and public informed,” Boss said. “Every appropriate precaution advised by the OC Health Care Agency is being followed.”

Daily Pilot Articles Daily Pilot Articles