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Influenza-Like Illness Reported At Boston Schools

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

Superintendent Carol R. Johnson announced that three additional Boston Public Schools will be closed for seven calendar days because of concerns about influenza. The Jackson/Mann K-8 School and the Horace Mann School for the Deaf & Hard of Hearing, which share a building in Allston, and the Eliot K-8 School in the North End will be closed next week (June 1-5) and reopen on Monday, June 8, because of unusually high levels of influenza-like illness.

During that time period, the Jackson/Mann Community Center adjacent to the Jackson/Mann and Horace Mann Schools also will be closed to the public, officials from Boston Centers for Youth and Families announced.

Dr. Johnson made the decision to close the schools temporarily in consultation with the Boston Public Health Commission and Mayor Thomas M. Menino. Officials said they hope that the temporary closures will prevent new infections and avoid unnecessary illness.

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With this announcement, a total of eight Boston Public Schools have been closed because of influenza concerns, including Boston Latin School in the Fenway (reopened May 27), the Umana Middle School Academy in East Boston (reopened May 28), the Frederick Middle School in Dorchester (reopened May 29), the O’Bryant School of Math & Science (reopening June 3), and the Condon Elementary School (reopening June 3). Other public and private schools around the state also have been closed recently.

“Given the significant numbers of students out sick with flu-like symptoms, we have decided to close these buildings for the next week in order to prevent new infections,” said Dr. Johnson. “We continue to work with public health officials to monitor attendance and health reports from all 143 Boston Public Schools, making decisions to close schools temporarily on a case-by-case basis.”

The Jackson/Mann serves 702 students in grades K0-8; the Horace Mann serves 144 students in grades K-12; and the Eliot School serves 270 students in grades K0-8. All three schools reported unusually high absenteeism rates today, and follow-up calls to families confirmed that many of the students are exhibiting flu-like symptoms. Officials from the Boston Public Health Commission and Boston Public Schools concluded that having so many students sick not only impedes the learning environment but also makes it easier to transmit infection. Therefore, the decision was made to close the schools for seven days, after which time most types of flu are no longer contagious.

Mitchell Chester, Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, issued a statement last week pledging flexibility on time and testing requirements for schools affected by an outbreak of influenza virus.