Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 36
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
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District Ready for Swine Flu Outbreak; Role of Parents Noted

Ellen Gilbert

While news of the district’s successful refunding of its long-term debt was the highlight of The Princeton Regional Board of Education’s meeting last week, Board members also heard about what President Alan Hegedus described as “an eventful summer,” and were given advance notification by Superintendent Judy Wilson about several school concerns in the coming weeks.

Although the school year did not begin until Tuesday, September 8, Mr. Hegedus noted that “this is a 12-month per year school system” as he spoke about the busy summer school schedule and maintenance work accomplished during July and August. Ms. Wilson added that PRS teachers were also very busy at this time designing curriculum, learning how to use new tools, planning for program implementation, and attending state and national training programs.

In her comments last week and in online information available at the district’s website (, Ms. Wilson addressed concerns about the prospect of an H1N1 outbreak in the schools, particularly in light of the fact that children between the ages five to 17 are impacted most by this particular flu. “Between Federal and State guidelines, our nurses and staff are well-informed and ready to follow the CDC guidelines,” she said.

A relatively new CDC guideline, Ms. Wilson noted, is the proviso that children must remain at home, fever-free and without fever-reducing medication, for at least 24 hours before returning to school. Previous guidelines did not mention the absence of medication in advising children to remain at home for one fever-free day. “Do not load them up on Tylenol and return them to school,” Ms. Wilson cautioned.

The school’s website encourages parents to have their “childcare plans in place,” in the event of illness, noting that “separation from others is the best control for minimizing the spread” of H1N1. “Making arrangements to keep your child home when he or she is ill is not only the best care for your child but also the most considerate action for the school and greater community.” The onus for keeping things under control rests firmly on parents, according to the website, where the statement that “parents have the greatest power and responsibility in minimizing the spread of H1N1” appears in bold capital letters.

The role of parents in students’ lives was also emphasized in Ms. Wilson’s online newsletter about preparing for the new school year. “While peer pressure is powerful at every age level, the greatest influence on your child’s education is you,” Ms. Wilson wrote. “Being the ‘great influencer’ is a full-time, year-round role, but the opportunities that abound in the next few days are ripe with potential for creating just the right family start to the school year. Please be purposeful about asking your children, children at all stages of their PK-12 education, what they are hopeful about, what goals they want to set for themselves, what worries they might have. Reinforcing their developing interests and discovering hidden talents should all be part of these conversations. Mostly, I ask that you step back and look at your child through new eyes. That is no easy task as our views of our children often lag as they speed from one stage to the next!”

Speaking of the coming Princeton-wide reading of Greg Mortenson’s Three Cups of Tea, done in coordination with the Princeton Public Library, Ms. Wilson found another opportunity to invoke parental support, citing a “multigenerational opportunity” and encouraging parents to read with their children. Mr. Mortenson will appear at the district’s Performing Arts Center on October 23.

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