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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Some school days waived over swine flu

TAMPA -- Students will not have to make up at least three of the school days they're missing this week due to probable swine flu exposure, Hillsborough County school officials said today.

That much was clear as the district scrambled to contain the physical and ppsychological fallout of its decision Sunday to close two schools attended by students with probable exposure to the virus, Wilson Middle and Freedom High schools, as well Liberty middle, which shares a cafeteria with the latter.

Commissioner of education Eric Smith has the power to waive three days from the state-mandated 180-day school calendar and has done so. Hillsborough currently operates under a 182-day calendar, but used one of those extra days for a storm last fall; officials are working with Gov. Charlie Crist to determine whether the remaining lost day can also be waived.

School custodians are due to receive training later today on methods for safely cleaning the three schools, and will begin that work tomorrow, said district spokeswoman Linda Cobbe. School buses ridden by students from those schools will also be cleaned.

No decision has been made to close further schools, and reports that siblings of students at the closed schools are being told to stay home are incorrect, Cobbe said.

But the district is still working through a myriad of complex issues associated with the school closures, she said:

* Schools are working to post student assignments on their websites, a task made more complicated by the fact that some students don't have their books at home.

* While Liberty Middle canceled a field trip it had planned to an Orlando theme park, other field trips district schools have planned are currently going forward as long as the venues remain open, Cobbe said. Graduation ceremony plans, too, are unchanged.

* Officials are still figuring out how to handle other events that affect high school students, such as Advanced Placement exams and a state track meet scheduled for week's end. The Florida High School Athletic Association said on its web site that it would "make the proper adjustments in scheduling to ensure every team/individual will have a fair chance at a state title."

For breaking news updates on swine flu cases in the Tampa Bay area, visit or read tomorrow's St. Petersburg Times.
Are you connected to one of the affected schools, or have concerns about another Hillsborough County school and swine flu? Please send us an email or call (contact information below) if you'd be willing to talk about it.
Tom Marshall, Times Staff Writer
(813) 226-3400

[Last modified: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 10:22am]


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