St. Francis Prep reopens after ‘swine flu’ clean-up

It was back to school for the students of Saint Francis Preparatory as classes resumed today at the institution – closed for a week after 69 students had confirmed cases of the H1N1 virus, referred to as the “swine flu.”

Observing a sign that read, “No absent passes – go right to class,” hundreds of students filed through the doors of Prep on Monday, May 4, though 200 were still out.

Brother Leonard Conway said that on average, 75 students are absent each day.

“I’m delighted to see smiling faces walk into this building,” he said with a smile.

“I’m satisfied with the way the school handled it,” he continued. “I think our staff is tremendous. We kept the parents updated on our web site all of the time, and all phone calls and all emails were answered in a timely fashion, within 24 hours.”

Freshman Justine Licato, whose dad was picking her up after class on the first day back, said she was not feeling well.

“I was fine the whole week [the school was shuttered],” she said. “Now I’m sick.”

Most who went back today said everything was the same as always.

“It was good today,” said a cafeteria worker. She told The Queens Courier she did not get sick, and was happy to be back.

“It wasn’t worth all the homework,” said sophomores Robin Ambooken and Justin Lachman, noting that although the school was closed, students were still expected to complete assignments due today for their classes.

Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, Commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, said the department is now collaborating with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to further assess the St. Francis outbreak.

Besides surveying affected households, the two agencies will collect and analyze blood samples from a small subset of households, to determine the actual rate of infection.

Both Health officials and Brother Conway are urging students with fever and a cough or sore throat to stay home until they have recovered and been symptom-free for at least 24 hours.

As of Monday, May 4, the CDC confirmed 11 more cases of the H1N1 virus in New York City. The new results bring the number of confirmed cases to 73.

Among the newly-confirmed cases are several from nearby P.S. 177, where roughly a dozen students reported flu-like illness last week. The school has been closed since Wednesday, April 29, and plans to reopen on Wednesday, May 6.

The new tally also includes two confirmed cases and one probable case, all in adults, who are not associated with places where spread of the virus has been established.

Health officials say this is further evidence that the H1N1 is not confined to a particular group but is spreading more widely, as human flu viruses generally do.

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