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Hillsborough students return to class after H1N1 swine flu scare

TAMPA — Students at three Hillsborough County schools returned to class this morning, their first day back since administrators suspended classes due to feared spread of the H1N1 flu.

Freedom High, Woodrow Wilson Middle and Liberty Middle schools were scheduled to stay closed all week while their buildings were cleaned. Two children, a 15-year-old girl and an 11-year-old boy, who attended the schools had probable infections, health officials said.

But Hillsborough school administrators decided Tuesday to reopen the schools today after they say the threat of severe spread never showed up.

Parents at the 600-student Woodrow Wilson Middle School this morning said although their children appreciated the break, they were glad to be back.

"Supposedly, they were catching up on homework," said Michael Frazier, who dropped off his eighth-grade son Darnell and seventh-grade daughter Zipporah before the 9 a.m. first bell. "That's what they said they were doing. According to my wife, they did their work."

Between math and earth science assignments, Frazier's children spent time at home and with other kids from the neighborhood, he said. But the unscheduled vacation didn't become an inconvenience, he added. In fact, he was happy to hear of the break.

"I'm glad that if it was an issue, and it was considered drastic by some people, that it's better to be safe than sorry," he said. "But they're ready to get back. Kids at this age and stage, they want to be in a social environment."

Joni Zook's seventh-grade daughter, Bailey, wasn't as excited to return, Zook said. Instead of rehearsing for The Comedy of Errors from Monday to Wednesday, Bailey got to hang out at the swimming pool and see friends. Zook's coworkers at the Pane Rustica Bakery and Cafe allowed her time off to supervise.

"Obviously I don't want her to get sick, but I don't really feel it was necessary to close the school," Zook said. "It's one of these things where … with all of the media coverage, it (the flu scare) got a bit overblown."

"People get the flu all the time," she added.

Philippe Coriou, whose daughter Aicha resumed her sixth- grade classes today, said he liked the fact that school officials were proactive.

"When there is a doubt about something, my idea is, make sure everything's okay," he said. "They have to be very careful … to prevent things from happening."

Aicha got the chance to relax at her condominium complex's pool and finish off some math homework. Still, he said, she was excited to be back in class.

"She would prefer to be at school," he said. "This school is a paradise for her."

Drew Harwell can be reached at dharwell@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3386.

Hillsborough students return to class after H1N1 swine flu scare 05/07/09 [Last modified: Thursday, May 7, 2009 4:50pm]
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