By: Merrill Hope
October 16, 2014
DALLAS, Texas — Parents in the Texas Belton Independent School District (ISD) received two contradictory late night communications from Superintendent Susan Kincannon. The first was a pleasant Ebola update and within minutes, came the second — a three campus shutdown advisory.
On Wednesday evening, October 15, the first school communication updated Belton ISD parents on health advisories that had been sent to the district’s Sparta Elementary and North Belton Middle School where two students had traveled on the same Frontier Airlines Flight #1143 as the second nurse diagnosed with Ebola, Amber Vinson. She was since airlifted for further treatment to Atlanta Breitbart Texas reported.
The letter from Kincannon noted “While that state and local health departments have cleared these students to attend school, their parents have decided to keep their children home for 21 days from the day they took the flight.”
Dallas ISD currently has five students out of school on Homebound studies while they wait out their 21 day risk period after potentially coming into contact with original Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian man who brought the first case of Ebola into the United States through Dallas. He died from the virus on October 8.
Kincannon went onto explain that the “state and local health departments have determined that they are considered to be extremely low risk.”
However, not long after, a second revised communication was issued to families announcing that three Belton ISD schools would be closed on Thursday, October 16: North Belton Middle School, Sparta Elementary and the Belton Early Childhood School. The third school was added because some of the pre-kindergarten students at the Belton Early Childhood School “transfer through Sparta Elementary at the beginning and end of the school day.”
The campuses are being closed down to “thoroughly clean and disinfect the schools and buses” according to this second letter. Kincannon wrote “Late tonight, I learned that officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are re-evaluating the health risk to some passengers on Frontier Airlines Flight #1143 from Cleveland to Dallas. At this time, we do not know if this will include either of the two Belton ISD students who traveled on the flight.”
The letter pointed out that the closures will give health officials extra time to reassess the health risk to passengers who were on the plane with Vinson. Kincannon also wrote “I’m frustrated that we didn’t learn until late tonight that the CDC was re-evaluating the health risk.”
She emphasized that she will remain in close contact with state and local health official. “By law, they have the authority to direct our response, and we rely on their expertise and the information that they provide to make decisions.”
KWTX-10 reported that at a press conference held earlier on Wednesday evening, Kincannon anticipated that some parents will choose to keep their children at home, adding that no decision had been made on whether these student absences would be counted as excused or unexcused. In Texas, unexcused absences can result in a visit from the truant officer.
KWTX-10 noted that Belton ISD told parents “they have the situation under control and that all students can return to class.”
Yet, much like Dallas ISD parents who spoke to Breitbart Texas and other area private school parents, Belton ISD parents are worried. One mother told the KWTX field reporter that they would have thought all the people who flew on the Frontier Airlines flight with the second Ebola nurse victim would have been quarantined by now.
Bell County Health Department Epidemiologist Lacey Sanders told reporters during an original press conference that the two students wouldn’t be quarantined or isolated because they did not have contact with the nurse and because the nurse was not symptomatic at the time, according to KWTX-10. Sanders said, “I think the possibility of any kind of spread is almost non-existent.”
However, late last night that game plan changed for Belton ISD.
Breitbart Texas contacted Belton ISD for further comment but was told by Kyle DeBeer, district Communications Director that Superintendent Kincannon was not speaking to the media at this time. He advised that as more information becomes available, they will speak to parents directly as well as post information and communications from the superintendent on their website and over social media.
The district’s other campuses will remain open. Belton ISD insists it is safe for students to attend school.
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