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Suddenly schooled in H1N1 reality at my children’s school

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My daughter’s face was buried in a pillow she grabbed off the couch. It was Sunday night. We had just finished watching a news segment about the kids’ school.

A reporter stood in front of the building looking properly furrowed as she gave the grim news: The H1N1 flu had arrived in our community, infecting a schoolmate and possibly siblings and friends. Consequently, the state had recommended closing the school for the week.

“Are you embarrassed or scared?” I asked.

“Both!” she groaned.

She was rightfully worried about the classmate and embarrassed that her school’s new-found notoriety wasn’t positive. Flipping to every channel and seeing your beloved school behind frowning reporters was disconcerting and worrisome to our kids. In retrospect, we should have been more selective regarding the coverage.

Our family had been casually following the H1N1 epidemic since it began. I don’t think any of us imagined it would hit so close to home. At the time of the announcement, only four people in Colorado had been diagnosed with the new flu. Like many, I believed it had been overhyped by the media and alarmists of every ilk. I had been telling the kids not to worry. But hey, wash those grubby mitts, again. Soapy bubbles and warm water never hurt anybody.

The decision to close the school this week wasn’t reached lightly, according to the news conference we watched earlier in the day. Consultations between the school district, the county health department, and the state health department led to the conclusion it is always better to protect a child’s health. I appreciated this point of view. If they hadn’t canceled school and the flu spread, there would be righteous fury.

I am a parent who is suddenly homeschooling until further notice. Within hours of the announcement, we spoke with our kids’ teachers and read emails they sent regarding school work. This isn’t a spontaneous vacation. They have assignments to complete and plenty of work to keep them busy. I feel slightly overwhelmed by the prospect of keeping track of what everyone must complete this week.

It’s like homework that’s been on a gluttonous binge. It’s large.

I realize many parents, especially those who work full-time, probably had to scramble to find child care or had to take the week off. The hardships created can’t be easy to bear for many. I hope they found a good, workable solution. Employers, like schools, need to have contingency plans for their workers with school-aged children. It’s a wake-up call for everyone.

I hope the child who battled the flu is safe and is recovering well. I don’t want him to be lost in the debate, the hype, the decision, the publicity.

There’s a real kid and a real family who can say it happened to them.

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  • comment avatar Amber Johnson May 5, 2009

    I know–craziness isn’t it? At least they’re having the kids do schoolwork from home. Would hate for them to have to make up the time missed during their summer break.

  • comment avatar Kagey May 5, 2009

    I’m just glad they didn’t shut down the whole school district like fort worth did. Isn’t that overkill?

    I think we all just need to be more aware of good hygiene all the time.

  • comment avatar Melissa May 5, 2009

    Like you said, if the flu has a deadly spread, parents would be much more upset about that than a week of school closure. Unfortunately, there’s no good answer because the school can’t provide some sort of daycare since the point is to keep the kids separated.

    A new article just came out that explains very well why experts are worried about the flu:

  • comment avatar Joanne May 5, 2009

    But just think, your bunch probably missed any possibility of getting it already by being out of town.

  • comment avatar Shayne May 5, 2009

    I, too, hope the child who got sick is ok. You are blessed to be able to stay home with your children. Though I enjoy my job, I really don’t know what I would do if school unexectedly closed down for a week or more. That very concern has, of course, been at the forefront of our thoughts lately. Two local school districts have closed all schools, and individual schools in several other surrounding districts are closed, some for 2 more weeks.

    I suppose we’d have to do what we did following Hurricane Ike — take turns staying home with the kids and hope for some flexibility and understanding from our employers…

  • comment avatar Stephanie May 5, 2009

    I don’t know if you ever grow out of being a bit horrified seeing your school in the background of news reports. My school was featured in a unfortunate news clip earlier this school year, and I cringed.

    While I think the media is going overboard on the coverage, I’m thankful the CDC is taking appropriate measures. And more importantly, I hope that student from your kids’ school recovers quickly.