Gilmer County Superintendent of Schools John Bennett has issued a letter regarding H1N1 (Swine Flu) calming fears that have been expressed in the community, following his closing schools in Gilmer County Thursday.

Dear Parents,

Gilmer County Schools were closed Thursday October 22, 2009 as a precaution based on the high number of absences at Gilmer County High School. Health officials were in the process of determining the reason for the absences when I made this decision.

Only a small number of parents had been contacted at the time that I made this decision. Approximately sixty percent of the parents, whom had a child absent, were interviewed. Based on the information of those being interviewed, only a small percentage had flu-like symptoms. I wish to thank those parents for being cooperative and helpful.

I know that several of you are concerned about the H1N1 virus. I wish to calm your fears. Our schools are being sanitized each day of work. I believe that our schools are as safe a place or safer than many areas where people congregate.

Our advice is to 1) wash hands frequently, 2) cough or sneeze into your arm or sleeve, 3) avoid touching eyes, mouth or nose, and 4) if you feel sick stay home. I have no stand on whether to take the H1NI shots.

I would recommend you consult your physician or the health department when making this decision. Individuals with flu symptoms should remain home for at least 24 hours after they are free of fever or feverishness without the use of fever-reducing medications. (Fever is defined as greater than or equal to 100.0 F)

I am in constant communication with the local and state health department and the West Virginia Department of Education concerning these decisions. The state's recommendation is that we continue to have school as long as we can staff them. I will continue to monitor the absence situation and make the decision that I think is best for our students.

John D. Bennett
Gilmer Superintendent of Schools

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