Parents Seek Care as More Schools Close

Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, May 3, 2009

Hundreds of parents in Washington's Maryland suburbs struggled yesterday to make child-care arrangements for the week as new probable cases of swine flu appeared and officials announced the closing of a fourth local school, an elementary school in Prince George's County.

The closings, the latest of which was ordered to last two weeks, appeared likely to create a ripple effect for employers across the region as parents drew up plans to take off work if they cannot make other arrangements.

"Everybody is concerned," said Lisa Penderson, who has three children at Folger McKinsey Elementary School in Severna Park, which is closed until at least Thursday. "A lot of us are working moms, so we are going to try to help each other and watch each other's kids through the time period and hope the school opens Thursday."

State health officials said yesterday that another Folger McKinsey student, the second in three days, had been given a diagnosis of probable swine flu. Another new probable case was diagnosed in Anne Arundel County, a family member of several people previously diagnosed, and one was diagnosed in Harford County. Both involve adults.

Also yesterday, University Park Elementary School in Hyattsville was ordered closed after a teacher was given a diagnosis of probable swine flu.

"We just want to protect everyone," said Donald Shell, the county's health officer. "We don't take lightly keeping children out of school and the imposition on parents."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that any school with possible cases be closed, forcing school officials to explore how students will make up for the lost instructional time, including whether to delay summer vacation.

Montpelier Elementary School in Prince George's and Rockville High School in Montgomery County were ordered closed Friday, as was a school in Baltimore County. Public health officials warn that more schools could close as additional case are discovered.

In Virginia, Maryland and the District, the tally of probable and confirmed cases rose yesterday from 17 to 21. Virginia health officials confirmed that one of two Washington and Lee students suspected of contracting swine flu had contracted it.

Two new probable cases were reported in Delaware yesterday, and for the first time the victims were not students at the University of Delaware. Before yesterday, the 10 confirmed cases and 14 probable cases all involved students at the university's Newark campus.

The new cases involve a student at a special school at Wilmington Hospital for children with medical conditions and a student at an elementary school.

The news from Delaware will probably heighten concern among educators locally, who are grappling with how to deal with school closures and with creating long-range plans in the event of a pandemic.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2009 The Washington Post Company