By Daniel de Vise
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 28, 2009
Twenty-one students and three teachers from a Silver Spring private school who flew last week to China for a weeklong tour have been confined to their hotel rooms, quarantined for possible exposure to swine flu during their flight from the United States.
The group arrived in Guizhou province in southwestern China on Friday for an "extended study week," one of several such excursions from the Barrie School, which stresses experiential learning.
Government officials quarantined the students and chaperons at a hotel in the city of Kaili because a passenger on the plane was suspected of having swine flu. Students have been permitted to converse through the open doors of their hotel rooms, to write e-mails and to talk on room-to-room telephones, but not to leave.
"This gives hanging out a new meaning," Mike Kennedy, head of school, said yesterday.
School officials have been told the quarantine will end tomorrow evening, leaving the students one day to tour China before their return flight Sunday.
The students, all of high school age and apparently free of flu symptoms, are being housed one or two to a room. Helen Wright, 16, has a room to herself. She told her parents in an e-mail this week, "I'm okay, but I'm lonely and scared," according to her mother, Deborah Wright.
"Physically, they are okay," Wright said. "They are being fed. But I am concerned about the kids' mental state."
Parents and school officials said they learned Tuesday from U.S. consular officials that the plane passenger with the high fever did not have swine flu, raising hopes that the quarantine would be lifted. But the students remained confined as of yesterday evening.
"Their whole trip has been basically destroyed," Wright said.