Aspen schools ramp up flu precautions |

Aspen schools ramp up flu precautions

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN ” Aspen students returning from Mexico and a group of sixth-graders who returned Friday from a service trip to San Diego have been instructed to stay home next week as a precaution against bringing the swine flu virus into the public schools.

District officials decided Thursday to keep the youngsters out of class. The move will affect close to 40 students initially ” 23 sixth-graders who were working in soup kitchens around San Diego and about 14 children returning from Mexico this weekend, according to the Aspen School District.

Parents are being asked to keep the children out of school for seven days ” the incubation period for swine flu. They will be able to return to school May 11.

“We feel like an ounce of prevention is worth it,” said Superintendent Diana Sirko. “We felt this was a reasonable interim measure.”

With some 1,700 students and staff members on the campus, keeping a few dozen students home is a reasonable step to prevent a flu outbreak that could prompt closing an entire school or the campus, she said.

“The scary part about it is, I think, a person is contagious and spreading the virus a day before the symptoms show up ” that’s the information were getting, anyway,” Sirko said.

Parents have contacted the school district expressing concern about students who were back in class after returning from Mexico in the past week or so ” just as the swine flu epidemic that apparently originated in Mexico began spreading to the United States and Europe.

However, some parents who must now keep their kids at home for a week feel the district is “jumping the gun,” she added.

Teachers will be providing school work to students who must stay home.

Another group of Aspen students was scheduled to return Friday from a service trip in New Mexico; those students will be allowed to attend class next week. The youngsters were working in an isolated situation ” essentially a controlled quarantine ” with a group of students from Mexico for more than seven days, the district said in an e-mail sent to parents. None of the students were showing symptoms of illness as they departed Friday, according to the e-mail.

The district will continue to evaluate the stay-home edict and could decide to allow the banished students back in class by mid-week if, for example, the flu continues to produce relatively mild symptoms in the United States, according to Sirko.

As additional precautions, the district has ramped up cleaning efforts and increased the availability of hand sanitizers on the campus, the e-mail said. The district sent out information earlier this week on strategies to avoid getting sick, such as washing one’s hands frequently and avoiding others with respiratory illness.

For more on the swine flu, go to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at or the Colorado Department of Health and Environment website at

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