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Swine flu prompts Hillsborough schools to Twitter

TAMPA — It was the week of Twitter for the Hillsborough County schools.

Within hours of the district's decision Sunday to close three schools over swine flu, school officials sent out news updates over its version of the social networking tool. Twitter — invented to allow friends to post innermost thoughts or idle musings in 140 characters or less — became an emergency communications device.

Other school districts, including Pinellas, also have Twitter sites. But few have seen them put to such immediate use.

Communications director Steve Hegarty said the district set up its account months ago, but was waiting for an emergency or other moment when its teachers and 190,000 students would be listening.

The probable infection of two students at Wilson Middle School and Freedom High provided that opportunity.

From zero followers on Sunday, the district now counts more than 400 followers at its site, HillsboroughSch.

When the decision was made to close those schools and Liberty Middle, those Twitter followers heard it first.

When the School Board decided Tuesday to reopen them, the post followed.

Tom Marshall can be reached at or (813) 226-3400.

Swine flu prompts Hillsborough schools to Twitter 05/07/09 [Last modified: Friday, May 8, 2009 7:36am]
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