Update on SARS & schools

by Yule Heibel on April 1, 2003

An update to the initiative taken by a Victoria-area private school in response to SARS: St. Margaret’s has reconsidered, asking the 18 girls who travelled to Asia to stay home in a voluntary quarantine, versus coming to school masked. Two other private schools are now taking additional measures to stop potential SARS outbreaks before they can start. St. Michael’s University School, which has many boarding students in the senior grades, has closed the senior grade for an additonal 3rd week of spring vacation and is assessing its middle and lower grade students, but is not asking them to stay home or wear masks. Glenlyon-Norfolk has now also asked students who travelled to Asia to stay home in voluntary quarantine for an additional week to 10 days. Thus far only K-12 private schools have profiled themselves with measures that sparked media attention, which I find interesting on its own.

The Victoria Conservatory of Music, unlike a private grade school, is very porous, with students of all ages — young child through adult — coming and going at all times. The Conservatory has a very significant Asian population, but its policy is advising caution; asking people who might have been in affected areas to monitor and perhaps to quarantine themselves; and pointing out that everyone who travelled to Asia was medically assessed as well as questioned about their whereabouts in Asia and possible contact with infected persons upon arriving at Vancouver airport. As for the public schools, their vacation time was one week, vs. the private schools’ two, and public school students have been back at school for over a week already. The Vancouver Island Health Authority did send advisories to the public school system, asking those who travelled to SARS-affected areas to monitor their health, and that anyone who falls ill 10 to 14 days after returning home should call the family physician, …and to remember to wash hands often. Face masks have not, however, been distributed!

{ 1 comment }

Betsy Burke April 2, 2003 at 6:23 am

Hi Yule.

Girls from St. Margaret’s are already set apart by the nature of the school (in the ’60s known affectionately by other schools as St. Maggot’s) so, facetiously speaking, it possibly would not have made a significant difference if all their girls had been made to wear masks. However, the Conservatory’s policy seems infinitely more respectful and useful.

Here in Florence, the first suspected SARS cases have just been isolated, and I find it interesting that there are a few Asian visitors wearing masks, not because they do not want to transmit something, but because they do not want to catch something. In any case, it will be an equal oportunity virus.

Congratulations on your blog, Yule.

Betsy Burke
Florence Italy

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