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District ready for swine flu
Fears may lift with end of school year
swine flu hand sanitizer
Casey McKinzie stocks shelves with hand sanitizer at Goodson Drug. - photo by Jim Dean

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As fear of a possible swine flu pandemic continues to spread across the nation, Forsyth County school officials are taking steps to prepare the district.

A letter sent to parents last week and posted on the school's Web site addresses concerns about the disease.

Bruce Wagar, the system's director of school safety, said planning for a possible bird flu outbreak several years back gave the district a head start.

"We are prepared and have been for three years," Wagar said. "If the flu begins to seep into an area of the county ... we will make arrangements to do what the health department indicates we should do."

Depending on the severity of the situation, that could include school closings, Wagar said.

"At some point, if it crawls into this area, the health department will make evaluations," he said. "The health department will work with the school on making that decision."

If school closings occur, Wagar said seven to 10 days would be standard for such a pandemic.

The school year ends May 22. Wagar said he hopes they "can get to that point ... that would be a good way to isolate us all."

"If we can get through the next few weeks, we'll be in pretty good shape because youngsters will not be in large social groups all day long," Wagar said.

School system spokeswoman Jennifer Caracciolo said Superintendent Buster Evans wanted the district to be "proactive in communication to parents." The letter to families shares basic information about swine flu and health measures to prevent its spread.

Caracciolo said principals and administrators may use the letter as a template in the days ahead to personalize the message for every school in the district.

She said the system's schools have been fielding calls from concerned parents regarding the matter.

"Different schools are getting different volumes of calls," Caracciolo said.

The letter to parents contains tips such as to wash hands often and avoid touching eyes, nose or mouth.

Wagar encouraged students and parents not to worry.

"Rest assured, the school system is more than prepared to deal with this," he said. "We don't want to deal with it. It's not something we like, but part of my responsibility is to make sure if and when it happens that we do have plans in place to carry it through."

E-mail Frank Reddy at frankrddy@forsythnews.com.