Proactive School Closure – The Right Choice

I spend a lot of time criticising people in power for making wrong choices with regard to this pandemic. I don’t enjoy this. But if no-one points out the mistakes being made, they aren’t going to stop. But when public officials make the right choice, it is important to give them credit. And Dr. Bruce E. Storm, Superintendent of Schools for Regional School District 12 in Washington Connecticut deserves praise for a tough decision he recently made.

Here is a memo, which he sent today:

To:        James Hirschfield, Chairman, Region 12 Board of Education
Members, Region 12, Board of Education

From:    Bruce Storm

Re:       Decision to Close School

I want to let you know that after considerable discussion with the Administrative Cabinet and consultation with our nursing professionals, I made a determination to close our schools on Thursday and Friday. As you will note in the letter I have sent home (attached), our absences are not extremely high, but we are seeing a steady increase in those numbers and we would like to try and slow the cycle of infection prior to Thanksgiving in a few weeks. This was a tough decision and can be misunderstood; it is preemptive and precautionary and intended to stabilize the health of our kids. I realize that it may create inconvenience for some families, but on balance we thought it best to err on the side of our students’ health and welfare.

A lot of schools have closed after absences reach untenable levels. These are reactionary school closures. However, if the goal is to save lives, schools must be closed before the damage is done. Superintendent Storm didn’t wait until his school system collapsed in a mass outbreak of ill students and teachers. He was proactive, not reactive. Other school systems are making different decisions, some of them in nearby areas of Connecticut. It is not hard to predict the consequences of these different choices.

Kudos to Superintendent Storm for thinking ahead and put the interests of his students first.

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3 thoughts on “Proactive School Closure – The Right Choice

  1. Here’s a bit more on Superintendent Storm’s pro-active school closure in CT. He closed while absence rates were aroud 5% overall but while the number of cases of H1N1 flu were increasing:

    Number of students Region 12 CT: 1159

    http://www.ctreap.net/schoolinfo.php?XX=CT01122120000

    According to this article, there were 59 absent on Tuesday. So fewer than 10%:

    =============

    Region 12 schools closed through Friday to stop spread of flu

    By Susan Tuz
    STAFF WRITER
    Updated: 11/10/2009 06:54:06 PM EST
    http://www.newstimes.com/ci_13756514?source=most_viewed

    All Region 12 schools in Washington, Roxbury and Bridgewater will be closed Wednesday through Friday to try to break the spread of an “influenza-like illness” that hit a steadily increasing number of students in the past few days.

    Superintendent Bruce Storm said two weeks ago Region 12 had fewer than 10 students out within influenza-like illness. Last week there were 17 students out.

    This Tuesday, 59 kids were out.
    Wednesday is a regular school holiday.

    Storm has closed Region 12 schools until Monday, hoping the five-day hiatus will help reverse an “upward trend of student illness.”

    Storm stressed this is an “anticipatory closure” and a “precautionary measure only.”

    “While the numbers of Region 12 students absent remain relatively low in the aggregate, it is the steady increase of children out with influenza-like illnesses, plus the numbers sent home over the last few days, that give us concern,” Storm said Tuesday.

    In addition, all extracurricular activities, including high school events, town recreation activities held in school buildings, and ASAP workshops will be cancelled.

    The high school play, scheduled to begin this week, has been rescheduled for Nov. 19 to 21 at 8 p.m., plus a Sunday matinee Nov. 22 at 3 p.m.

    It is recommended that all students remain at home during the five-day school closure, avoiding large group contact, Storm said.

    Over the next three days, a full cleaning protocol will be conducted at all Region 12 schools. On Monday, school administrators will reassess attendance and make further decisions.

  2. Here is the full text of CT Region 12 Superintendent Bruce Storm’s letter to parents and staff explaning his decision to effect pro-active school closure.

    Superintendent Storm is demonstrating real leadership in this. All other schools which have closed herein CT have done so only after absence rates reached in excess of 40%, leading to system failure.

    ===========

    Office of the Superintendent
    Regional School District 12
    11A School Street
    Washington Depot, CT 06794

    November 10, 2009

    Dear Parents, Guardians, Faculty, and Staff,

    While the numbers of Region 12 students absent remain relatively low in the aggregate, it is the steady increase of children out with “influenza like illnesses” (ILI) plus the numbers sent home over the last few days that give us concern.

    As you know we will be closed tomorrow, November 11, for Veterans’ Day and as a preemptive and precautionary step, Region 12 schools will remain closed on Thursday and Friday, November 12 and 13. In the judgment of health professionals, this five day (including the weekend) hiatus will help to break the cycle of infection and can help reverse the upward trending of student illnesses.

    I want to stress that this decision is made with the hope that an anticipatory closure will allow for the stabilization of student health prior to the upcoming Thanksgiving recess. Again, this action is taken as a precautionary measure only.

    In addition, all extra curricular activities, including high school events, town recreation activities held in school buildings, and ASAP workshops will also be cancelled.

    It is further advised that since people are contagious for about a day before they actually feel sick, social distancing is encouraged. It is recommended that all students should remain at home during this five day period, avoiding any large group contact.

    Over the next three days we will proceed with a full cleaning protocol for all our schools and on Monday we will reassess our attendance. We will make any further determinations that are called for at that time.

    I realize this decision may inconvenience some families; however, the safety and well being of all our children is the single, highest priority.

    Sincerely,
    Bruce E. Storm, Ed.D.

    Superintendent of Schools

    http://www.region-12.org/

    1. “I realize this decision may inconvenience some families; however, the safety and well being of all our children is the single, highest priority.”

      ==============

      We don’t often hear this.

      We should be hearing this from every school superintendent in the nation.

      There should be no other priority.

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