Madrona K-8 closed due to swine flu

Seattle Public Schools has been informed by local health officials that there is a suspicious flu case, that may be Swine Flu, reported for a student at Madrona K-8. As a result of Public Health's ongoing investigation into the swine flu infection of a student at Madrona K-8, health officials believe that the infected student may have been ill during school last Friday. Out of an abundance of caution, Madrona K-8 will close for 7 days, starting Thursday April 30 and will reopen on May 7.
All other schools remain open.

For Madrona K-8 students and families: To avoid spreading infection, students should not gather outside of school during the week that school is closed. If students or staff do become ill, avoid contact with others and remain at home from work and school either for 7 days after illness starts or for a full day after the illness is over, whichever is longer. If your symptoms are more severe, call your health care provider to discuss if you need to be seen and evaluated, and tell them about the school closure for swine flu. We will keep you informed as more information is available.

All Seattle Public Schools students, families and staff are encouraged to continue prevention measures including covering coughs and sneezes, washing hands, and staying home if you are sick.

Seattle Public Schools wants to remind families, staff and students to take prevention steps to stay safe. These steps include:

* Sneeze or cough into a tissue, elbow or sleeve. Throw the tissue away.

* Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze.

* Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.

* If you are sick, stay home.

Seattle Public Schools is in constant contact with public health officials and the Centers for Disease Control. We will continue to take their guidance as new information is available.

If you have any questions feel free to call the Seattle King County Public Health Department at (206) 296-4949, talk to your school nurse, or visit or visit the Centers for Disease Control website,

We will keep families and staff informed
Earlier this week we provided an informational letter to all schools that they can share with families and staff. We continue to stress the prevention guidelines listed in the letter. A copy of the informational letter with translations is below:

Amharic Cambodian Chinese Oromo Somali Spanish Tagalog Tigrigna Vietnamese

April 27, 2009

Dear Seattle Public Schools Students, Families and Staff:

On April 29 the first suspected cases of Swine Flu in King County were reported by public health officials. Seattle Public Schools staff works closely with the local, state, and national health agencies to investigate any illnesses and/or infections and we have plans in place to deal with any potential outbreaks.

Swine Flu in people is characterized by fever, sore throat, cough, body aches, headaches, chills, and fatigue. The illness may last up to seven days, but people are considered to be contagious as long as symptoms persist. If you or your child is showing mild flu-like symptoms, monitor and telephone your physician to consult if necessary or you can also consult with your school's nurse.

Seattle Public Schools wants to remind parents and staff members of the importance of prevention and how to stay safe.

What You Can Do To Prevent the Spread of Swine Flu

* Sneeze or cough into a tissue, elbow or sleeve. Throw the tissue in the trash after use.

* Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hands cleaners are also effective.

* Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread that way.

* If you are sick, stay home.

Symptoms of Swine Flu

* Fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills, fatigue.

Please remember that students should stay home when they have any of the following symptoms: fever (temperature 100 degrees or higher), vomiting or diarrhea, blistery rash, heavy nasal congestion or frequent cough and if your child has been diagnosed with a contagious disease.

If you have any questions feel free to call the Seattle King County Public Health Department at (206) 296-4949 or visit or visit the Centers for Disease Control website,


Jill Lewis, RN MN

Program Manager, Student Health Services


Dorothy Neville said…
So why the RoboCall last night saying that the kid was not in school while contagious and all is well? Data driven decision-making all right.

This makes how many useless robocalls I've gotten since they got the capability? Start times changes, Wasl, and what other non-emergency calls have there been? Now an actual potential emergency and they call too soon and give wrong information.
SolvayGirl said…
So where are all of these kids going to go while school is closed? Daycares? Grandmas? Friends?

I don't see how this actually reduces the chance of infection. To me it just spreads it around more. Personally, I'd rather see the school put a nurse in an infected school full-time so they could make some judgement calls about specific students.

Sending all the Madrona K-8 kids out into the community while only possibly contagious (the case for the original kid has NOT yet been confirmed) seems premature. But, since I'm not a trained health-care worker, I most certainly could be wrong.
It's definitely a conundrum.
Charlie Mas said…
When we consider all of the roles and duties that public schools assume in addition to the strictly academic ones (citizenship, socialization, Americanization, etc.), we should never forget the public health role they play.
zb said…
The goal is to send all the kids to their own homes -- the letter even says to "not gather with the kids in other places" (i.e. don't have playdates . . . )

But, I think the problem is that the plan is unrealistic. The goal is to have each child stay home in their own family home. But, given that the rest of the city is not closed, that's going to be impossible for many of the kids.

I thought this was an odd decision -- perhaps the only justification I can think of is, that if 1/2 the kids are going to stay home anyway, you might as well send everyone home.

I'm also bugged that there's no standardized policy, and instead we have random local school officials making their decisions. Seems to me that there should be a directive from someone based on the public health concerns, which should be similar for all schools (i.e whether they're in Anne Arundell county or King county)
anonymous said…
"Now an actual potential emergency and they call too soon and give wrong information."

I think SPS did the right thing to call and alert the public to a potentially serious situation. It was the first I'd heard about the situation, and I am glad that I had the information and could make an educated decision on behalf of my family (send my kids to school, or keep them home, etc).

And, what makes you think the call was premature and gave the wrong information? My call came at 9:44PM - that's pretty late. And I would assume that it relayed the information that was available at that time.

The news stations also reported that the child was not contagious while at school, and the decision to close the school came directly from the principal of Madrona, after the robo call.

What would have been a better alternative? No call at all. A call at midnight? A call this morning?
Dorothy Neville said…
How it is helpful to make an informed decision when the information on school closure was wrong? And the information they did have is vague and speculative? 9:45 PM is too late to call. Perhaps calling Madrona families but not the whole district.

Calling the wrong people, calling too soon with rumors and speculation just weakens the effect of calling at all. I've gotten at least four robocalls since snow season that were meaningless. Calling to remind me about WASL, prepare my kid -- when my kid wasn't even scheduled to take it. Calling to alert about start times changing next Fall --- that warrants a phone call? Six months in advance?

Last night's call just seemed like a PR thing to me. The information was in the media so the district wanted to scoop the press, before they had any facts. You say the principal made the decision to close the school? The reports I read say it was Public Health.

So, did the call allow you to make an educated decision?
anonymous said…
The call alerted me to the situation. Because of the call I watched the 11PM news to get more information, turned on the news this morning to see if there were any updates, called our pediatricians office and asked their advice as to whether I should send my children to school or not, and I did some research on flu prevention. So, yes, the call was informative and lead to me making more informed decisions. I have a son with asthma, for whom the flu would be very serious, so perhaps I take these situations much more seriously than others.
hschinske said…
"Calling to alert about start times changing next Fall --- that warrants a phone call? Six months in advance?"

Well, yeah, if it would affect your decision of where to enroll your child, that information *would* be valuable. I think it's a little odd to include it in a robocall, but not odd to distribute that far ahead.

Helen Schinske
Sue said…
I would just remind everyone to remember that the REGULAR flu kills 34,000 people each year, and we don't freak out to this degree each and every year, do we? This event has (tragically)killed maybe 20 confimed cases so far, correct? And sickened under 200 so far, correct? Just to play devil's advocate here.

However, on the very human, and the abundance of caution side,I have asthma, and a child with asthma as well, so I do appreciate all the heightened awareness of wash your hands, etc. I also appreciate the decision to close the school. I just wish folks who send sick kids to school each and every year would quit doing it. Sigh.

I would bet SPS will close down all the schools, as more cases become apparent over the week and weekend. So parents and employers better get ready.
Central Mom said…
I'll take more information over less any day, esp. from the District. I can judge the importance of any particular robocall for my own family.

In this case, I'm not particularly concerned about swine flu, but I'm glad I've got some time to plan for a possible school closure scenario in the coming weeks.
Charlie Mas said…
Do the students at Madrona need to make up these days at the end of the year?
anonymous said…
Two more elementary schools closed today, one in Mukilteo, and the other in Federal Way.
North End Mom said…
Aki Kurose and Stephens are now closed too. Each for 1 week.
Dorothy Neville said…
Yes, today's Robocall was useful. It had information. But it assumed I knew about Madrona being closed. Did I miss that call?

I still think last night's call showed poor judgment, but whatever. For anyone worried about their specific child and the flu, the information was too little too late. The Madrona boy who wasn't sick on Friday and was sick on Monday -- what did he do over the weekend? Baseball? A birthday party, the movies, the grocery store? The grocery store with the free samples? What did his classmates do over the weekend? We got some Eastside teens in Dallas at the International Robotics Competition. Danny Westneat just reminded us that Spring Reign just happened, bringing together teens from all over the Northwest and Canada. At least they were outside and there's not too much contact in Ultimate Frisbee. The Washington State Solos and Ensembles competition was last weekend. Thousand plus teens from all over the state hanging around the student union in Ellensburg for two full days. The whole world's a vector.

(oh, but the robocall this evening said to go to the seattle schools website for more information. too bad it wasn't updated with the latest closure data.)
Unknown said…
I think the information is valuable. It is just information - you are free to research and get more information and make your family decisions from there. I want to know what the schools know as soon as possible. They can't be blamed for working with the best information available at the time.

I know everyone is trying to keep this in perspective. Hey, I have made the same arguments about worrying about 1 case of West Nile when 40,000 people die in car accidents each year.

The fact remains that quarantine is the most successful method of reducing infection rates. Historically, places that were able to institute quarantines during flu outbreaks are much more successful at reducing infection rates. That is why people are cautioned to stay home when they are sick. Hand washing is great, but I don't really think my children can be relied upon to wash their hands multiple times during the day.

It was a difficult decision to send my children to school today. They did go. I may make a different decision tomorrow.
Dorothy Neville said…
"The fact remains that quarantine is the most successful method of reducing infection rates. Historically, places that were able to institute quarantines during flu outbreaks are much more successful at reducing infection rates."

Yes, but weren't those real quarantines? This one isn't a real quarantine if all we do is wait for the infection to be detected at a school and then shut it down and then just tell people to stay home. Don't real quarantines have curfews and National Guard and some real enforcement? I'm not complaining that they shut down some schools. I just wonder what good that does if all the other schools and gathering places remain open. Creating public policy is hard. I do not envy the folks in charge.
dj said…
I'd rather have the information than not, and perhaps it is false confidence, but the robocalls make me feel less like I am getting my information from the 21st century equivalent of a tin can and string.

I do agree with Dorothy, however, in that while I am totally agnostic on whether or not the swine flu is actually something worthy of quarantine, I'm not sure how shutting down a couple of schools helps much. I doubt those kids will stay at home, and it's not like the kids from the schools don't mix in various ways (I know there are kids from my daughter's school who are in aftercare at the now-closed Stevens, so if exposure at Stevens is a problem, guess what?)
What I understand from watching the news from schools in other states is that they need the schools closed to wipe down the entire school to disinfect it.
Jet City mom said…
I am just bemused at the varied ways other critical information is handled.
Death threats to a student, weirdo hanging around the playground/following kids home from school,sexual assault by a student after hours on school grounds.

I know that some of these parents are not informed in a timely fashion.

So what is the cuttoff?
If it is already, in the newspaper, then it is ok to alert parents?
Anonymous said…
dj said: "(I know there are kids from my daughter's school who are in aftercare at the now-closed Stevens, so if exposure at Stevens is a problem, guess what?)"

Let's explore this a bit.

I read a recommendation (elsewhere, not on SPS site) that siblings of kids in closed schools should not attend school or day care as well. Makes sense, right? If you're trying to isolate exposed kids, then don't send the nasty bugs to the next school via a sibling.

But what about this situation where many kids at Lowell use the after school care at Stevens? Since Stevens is closed, should the Lowell kids who are in the after school programs at Stevens also stay home? Oh, but wait! The kids who are in the after school program are probably the ones most likely to NOT have a parent who can take care of them during the day. Ugh!

Let's think a bit further. Lowell is a bit unusual in that it's not only an all-city draw with young kids (harder to manage prophylactic hygiene), but one in which virtually every kindergarten (and preschool) sibling attends school in their home cluster - all over the city. If Lowell gets this swine flu, it'll be "game over" in no time for ALL of Seattle Schools. They'll be closed from one end of the city to the other. At least if they continue the path of closing shop wherever there are kids who are sick with this flu.

So how far should the district reach? Was/were the sick kid/kids in an after school program in the building? If so, should the kids using Stevens after school care be asked to stay home? Is Lowell a special case, and should it be closed because they have kids that use the after school program at Stevens? Are there any other schools with significant numbers of kids that use Stevens after school programs? I have no answers, just posing questions.
TechyMom said…
Let's not forget the medically fragile population at Lowell. While swine flu seems to be pretty mild as flus go, it could be a very bad thing for kids who already have a signficant health problem.
Maureen said…
If, as Melissa says, they have to close schools for a week to give time to wipe everything down, could they reduce that time by having parent volunteers help with the cleaning? I would think most schools could do it in a day with volunteers. Or is it also important to give time for the airborne germs to die? (Or is there perhaps some Union related reason why parents can't clean?) Is there an epidemiologist/labor specialist out there who knows?!

I'm just trying to plan in case they close down our school (maybe we should all start lining up bleach and rags and people to use them!).
seattle citizen said…
Digital learning: It's the only answer. Telecommuting. Grocery home delivery. Webcam chats with friends. Video e-cards to relatives.
Future humankind should live in sealed envirnments!
SolvayGirl said…
Charlie asked: "Do the students at Madrona need to make up these days at the end of the year?"

No one in the press or at the District seems to be addressing this question. And, aren't at least some kids still taking WASLs?

If they have to make-up snow days, won't they need to make-up flu days? Or, could the difference be made up in eliminating all the end-of-year field trips (at least on the elementary level)? Shouldn't there be a plan for this?

And...could the teachers use the Source as a means to assign some "homework" for the kids who are staying home? I hate to see so much instruction time lost to these kids.

WV: "readi" Are we? Ready?
Anonymous said…
Maureen said: "If, as Melissa says, they have to close schools for a week to give time to wipe everything down, "

It's not that it takes a week to wipe things down, it takes a week for the virus to run through its incubation period, which can (apparently) be up to 6 days. You isolate the kids, then everyone who already has it should be showing symptoms already, and you can keep them home/isolated.

This would probably be extremely effective if every kid was forcibly quarantined, but that's just not going to happen. Hopefully it will slow things down.

The big problem is that it's a new virus and so little is known about it. Why is it killing in Mexico and acting more like a regular flu here in the states? Why is it spreading quickly in Spring, when most people are generally NOT in tight, closed-up environments, coughing on each other?

At the end of this, the district will be blamed by many for either jumping the gun, or not acting quickly enough. But it's uncharted territory, there's no way to know the "proper" course.
hschinske said…
I can't help worrying that a lot of kids may in fact be unsupervised in the next week, particularly the middle schoolers.

Helen Schinske
Dorothy Neville said…
Harborview's letter to its staff says 7 day incubation period. And then 7 days minimum of contagiousness after symptoms start.

Absolutely, quarantines are effective is they are enforced. Martial law and all that. But this is not a quarantine. All this will do is push the high school shutdowns into AP exam period, finals, graduation and proms.

Roosevelt already had a bit a flu season this Spring. My son was ill for about 5 days, two weeks after Spring Break, as were a number of his classmates and (IIRC) at least one teacher. He had had a flu shot in November. Still felt pretty crummy. One of his friend's temperature spiked to 104F. For all we know, those were H1N1 viruses, but who knows? I don't know if anyone was tested.

Elementary school kids don't get much out of the Source, do they? Likely not many parents are registered. And a school with 75% FRL, not a high expectation of internet at home. So missing the week is certainly a bummer.

1918 flu started in the Spring as well. An unexpected Spring flu surge that wasn't too bad, but then it came back with a vengeance in the Fall. Trench warfare didn't help things any either. John Barry's book was fascinating. We don't actually know the death rate in Mexico, so we do not know yet if it is more virulent there.

That's what we may be looking at: some seriously bad times next winter. Hopefully we'll have vaccines and other resources to cope. (Oh, and a good math text would help students be able to learn at home if schools are closed for a while.)

And can I clarify that the reason I was irked at the first robocall is that it provided quick but bad information. If it had just said "Head's up. Someone might have the flu, we are advised to keep schools open but will let you know if that changes. And please please if you or your kids have any symptoms stay home." That would have been better. And Emeraldkity is right, there are way too many situations where the district does not inform properly. Time will tell if they work on using it most effectively.

Ah, here's the CDC official stand on school closures. Note. Preemptive closures and 14 days. Sigh. Wanna bet graduations will be cancelled?
zb said…
Wow. Thanks for the link. The recommendations from the CDC are much more conservative than I thought they would be. My reading suggests that they're basically saying that one confirmed case means you should close the school, and that more than one confirmed case across more than one school means that you should close the district, and that closures should be for 14 days!

Yup, people need to be making plans.
rugles said…
Its nice outside. Do you take your kids to a park this weekend and let them play with other kids?

Last weekend Madrona/Stevens kids might have been playing on those swings and slides, who knows they might be there right now.
Sue said…
The confirmations should come today (If I read my newspaper correctly)

So I guess the question is - if we have confirmed cases at more than one school - will the district follow the CDC recommendations or not?

Jet City mom said…
our neighbor works for CDC, I have the impression recommendations are CYA.
However, as my 18 year old has been in India ( without potable water) since February- and since she told me that she isn't taking her malaria meds, since " they don't have it here", I am living in a state of wishful thinking.

I am also wearing a mask at times outside, because the pollen is nasty right now.
hschinske said…
Emeraldkity, your comment in combination with your picture (which is adorable, by the way) reminds me that I've heard the main benefit of a mask is that it keeps you from touching your nose or mouth. The flu virus can easily get through the mask if you are in a situation to be breathing it in, but more typically the transmission goes something like nose-hand-surface-hand-nose.

Helen Schinske
Jet City mom said…
the pic is of my oldest- who was one of those kids who was always grinning - I think she was chewing marshmallow guck.

She works in elementary schools and a few weeks ago the flu was going around, and she hadn't gotten it yet so she thought she was immune.

She volunteered to take care of a few kids who still hadn't completely recovered.

Well she is better now.

I think just staying away from crowds would help- although I am going to a sweaty club tonight- but alcohol kills germs right? ( JK)
Unknown said…
Annie’s Nannies is cutting “temp” fees for parents in need of childcare due to swine flu closures

Annie’s Nannies is waiving its agency membership fee for any parent who needs temporary childcare because of a school closed by the swine flu outbreak. “I want to try to help the thousands of parents in this area who suddenly find themselves in need of childcare,” says Annie Davis, company founder and CEO.
“We have a large pool of on-call nannies who are thoroughly screened and background checked, and we can arrange childcare in a person’s home with as little as a day's notice. Parents are welcome to use our temporary nannies for just one day if that’s all they need.”
Annie’s Nannies Household Staffing ( was the first such agency in the Northwest and is considered a model for agencies nationwide. The agency’s reputation was further enhanced in March by a Wall Street Journal* reporter’s “secret shopping” test of Annie’s Nannies’ on-call, temporary nanny service.
Call (206) 784-8462 to inquire about a temporary nanny and the special rates for those affected by the swine flu school closures.
anonymous said…
We're taking hygienic precautions but we are NOT staying home - living in Seattle has taught us to appreciate and take full advantage of the sunshine! We went to a Husky's baseball game last night, the tilth edible plant sale this morning, and now we're off to our sons little league baseball game. We've been exposed to thousands of people in the last 24 hours......and life goes on.

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