In a school district in California, when a student gets into trouble — or even just misses a few classes — a teacher actually goes out and gets the student to sit down at another desk in a different room.
The effort is among myriad procedures district administrators have devised to solve the problem of quarantining students who might pose a threat to others because of the flu or other infections. Schools now wear surgical masks, instruct parents to keep their sick children home for 24 hours, and distribute antibiotics.
But on Oct. 3, the San Bernardino City Unified School District decided to escalate the measures. What started as a handful of “containment units” in about a half-dozen schools is now encompassing all 17 high schools and 20 middle schools — affecting some 13,500 students.
The “containment units” are empty of students and staff, but there are no curtains, fans or air conditioners, all designed to keep students and teachers as fresh as possible. At those stations, teachers are trying to quell students in a hurry.
Mya Greene, an English and history teacher at Whiteview High School, was assigned to the unit the day after classes began. The scenario wasn’t exactly what she expected.
“They’re like, ‘Come in, if you have to, and talk to the kid who is freaking out and move him somewhere else,’ ” she recalled. “One time, the kid was standing there on the floor, his hands on his hips. He looked like he was in shock. And I’m just going, ‘What just happened here?’ ”
The idea began about a month ago when a high school student appeared to be contagious. His mother wanted him to see a doctor but the mother couldn’t be with her son since he had a fever. Without consulting the school nurse, teachers at Whiteview High School started moving some of the kids in that cluster to a different classroom.
As the swine flu epidemic spreads from one state to another, school districts around the country have begun employing a wide array of new safety measures. Some districts have said they are continuing to disinfect themselves. Others are pushing the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to expand their advice.
San Bernardino, located near the California border with the state of Arizona, did both. Now the school district is trying to get federal approval for specific containment protocols it wants to put in place for flu season. The guidance, they say, may require the schools to expand their use of mandatory medication, carry out rigorous disinfecting procedures, and perhaps prepare schools for handling the entire school population — no matter what the flu bug of the month is.
In San Bernardino, the district’s flu committee includes community members and officials. It considers requests from parents, assesses the severity of a suspected illness and decides whether the student needs to be moved to another classroom, stay home for two days or even be quarantined for five days.
The district has also undertaken an $85,000, six-month assessment of what it considers to be the best practices for keeping students healthy and learning. It includes a regimen of mask training for teachers and staff, chemical containment, a remote vaccine booth where vaccine cards can be accessed, and a waiver process for parents who don’t want their children vaccinated.
Read the full story from The New York Times here.