Wednesday, May 20th 2009, 2:36 AM
When will Mayor Bloomberg finally heed the pleas of anxious public school parents and teachers and order wholesale closings of swine flu-afflicted schools?
What will it take for Hizzoner and the Health Department to shutter at least those buildings in the Queens school districts that have become the epicenter of this new epidemic?
At Public School 21 in Flushing, where the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed one swine flu case earlier this month, 164 of the school’s 800 students were absent Tuesday.
An additional 20 were sent home by the school nurse with flulike symptoms, PTA President Lorraine Kosnar said.
Meanwhile, 17 teachers – nearly 25% of the staff – are out sick. Several of those teachers are said to have reported high fevers.
At Intermediate School 227 in East Elmhurst, 60 students were sent home with flulike symptoms Monday, two school system sources said.
More than 460 pupils – a third of the entire student body – didn’t show up for class yesterday.
Yet both schools remain open for business.
So are dozens of other Queens schools that have witnessed huge spikes in student absences from flulike symptoms
[b]Parent leaders say they know of several principals who requested that their schools be closed but were ordered to keep them open. [/b]
“We don’t understand why they won’t close these schools,” said Jane Reif, president of the parents council for Community School District 25.
“We’ve already had two deaths from this flu,” Kosnar said. “What are they waiting for, more victims?”
“No one seems to be able to tell us what the parameters are for closing a school,” said Marias Dapontes Dougherty, president of the parents council for District 30, which covers Jackson Heights, Astoria and Long Island City.
Meanwhile, Bloomberg remains true to his vision of mayoral control. He wants only obedience from parents and teachers to the decisions of City Hall.
The matter is not even up for discussion.
Assemblyman Jose Peralta learned that the hard way yesterday.
Peralta’s district includes several schools that have already been closed. It also includes Elmhurst, where a toddler died Monday night with flulike symptoms.
Peralta had arranged for an emergency town hall meeting for tomorrow night so city officials could calm the growing panic in northern Queens.
Officials from the Education and Health departments initially said they would participate, Peralta claims.
Then he was informed late yesterday that health officials are too busy dealing with the swine flu outbreak to speak at the community meeting. Education Department officials also said they would not show up.
“They told me they don’t want to create any more hysteria,” Peralta said. “I told them, ‘Don’t you think the hysteria is already there?'”
[b]No one doubts the sincerity of Bloomberg, Schools Chancellor Joel Klein and his top health officials. But they’ve never confronted a sudden crisis like this, and they’re making it up as they go along. [/b]
The worst thing you can do is ignore the people on the ground who are most affected.
Once before, our government leaders made that mistake. It was after 9/11. They told everyone the dust was safe.
Now, parents and teachers in Queens are warning them: Close all the schools for a few days – at least those in Districts 24, 25, 26 and 30.
When it comes to the health of children, you take no chances.