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Spring Creek Elementary reopens after cleaning

By Staff | May 7, 2009

They scrubbed and they sanitized.
And today, they will say “hello” a little earlier than expected to their students.
Spring Creek Elementary School students without flu-like symptoms will return to their Bonita Springs school today, two days earlier than the expected Monday reopening date.
It was moved up after federal health officials reversed their stance recommending school closures of up to two weeks to respond to confirmed H1N1 flu cases.
The recommendation, issued Friday, prompted the Lee County Health Department to work with the school district to close Spring Creek for one week, but the change in course Wednesday was cited as the reason for reopening it two days early.
Opening the school’s doors earlier presents no problems for the cleaning effort, said district spokesman Joe Donzelli.
“It’s done,” he said Wednesday. “They worked all day (Tuesday). There may be a little bit of follow up today, but the buses were done long ago — they were done Friday.”
Shortly after the first of two flu cases were confirmed in Spring Creek students, district Chief Administrative Officer Mike McNerny said cleaning crews would sanitize every surface at the school and clean it “top to bottom.”
But there were no specific cleaning recommendations from the county or state health departments, nor from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Ga., which issued the original recommendation to close schools for up to two weeks.
“The decision was left completely up to the school board,” said Jennifer James-Mesloh, spokeswoman for the Lee County Health Department. “The health department did not give any dictates to the district about what cleaners to use. There would be no difference in cleaning during a seasonal flu outbreak, so whatever measures the district would take during a normal illness should have been taken.”
Donzelli said the cleaning supplies used were the same routinely employed in the district.
Though school will resume earlier than expected, the district still must grapple with the three days of lost instruction at Spring Creek Elementary.
State law mandates that students must receive instruction at least 180 days each school year, but state statute 1011.60 allows districts to apply for waivers in the case of national, state or local emergencies.
Donzelli said the district intends to apply for such a waiver.
Deborah Higgins, who works in the Florida Department of Education communications office, said the department had not received a waiver requests as of Wednesday.
The governor’s office issued a statement Friday declaring the H1N1 outbreak a public health emergency in Florida, and Higgins said her department would adhere to the statute if it receives any waivers.
In Bonita Springs and elsewhere in the district, though, everyone is hoping for a return to normalcy today.
“We’re expecting tomorrow to be a normal school day,” Donzelli said Wednesday. “Sure, some parents will keep their kids home from school, and sick children should stay home. I’m sure it will be a topic of discussion in classrooms.”
Cynthia Lott, a teacher at Spring Creek, said that if the opportunity arises, she will discuss the flu with her third-grade students.
“I guess any opportunity in the classroom can be used as a teachable moment,” she said, adding that the students have been inundated with lessons on hand-washing and how to cover sneezes since last week.
“We’ve already discussed that, so I really don’t expect major fears or questions to come up,” Lott said.
But she was not sure about what sort of attendance numbers to expect starting today.
“That’s difficult to tell,” Lott said. “In terms of a regular day, it’s business as usual.”

Leslie Williams is a staff writer for the Naples Daily News.