On a sunny, Monday afternoon April 27, hours after learning that 28 St. Francis Preparatory students tested positive for swine flu and an additional 17 were probable cases, the area outside of the school was relatively quiet, except the hordes of media members assembled waiting to hear an update on the school.
While school was closed for the day, there were still a few people with ties to the school lingering around the Fresh Meadows campus offering some mixed opinions on how the school handled the situation.
Kenneth Hojas, 18, was playing handball at the courts near the school that afternoon when he said his brother Carlos, 15, a sophomore at St. Francis Prep, started feeling ill on Thursday but went to school on Friday. However, Carlos came home from school on Friday with headaches and experienced shortness of breath.
“The ambulance had to take him to the hospital,” Kenneth said.
Although tests confirmed he did not have the swine flu, Kenneth Hojas said he was upset that the school even allowed his brother to go to class on Friday.
“If they knew what was going on, why would they have the school open on Friday,” Hojas said.
Sophomore Dillan Hogan, 16, dropped by St. Francis Monday afternoon hoping to retrieve his tennis racket – he was prohibited from entering the school – but admitted he was not feeling so brave last week.
“I was scared,” he said, noting that 10 students were missing from one of his Friday classes, and that some students had complained of fevers and vomiting.
Hogan’s mother, Marluce, said she was “shocked” and “totally scared,” especially after relatives in Brazil phoned her upon seeing Dillan’s school on the news.
Daniel Hogan, the sophomore’s father, said he is confident the school has the situation under control.
“You feel it in your stomach a little bit when you’re dealing with your children,” he said. “But the school’s looking out for their best interests.”
Shortly before 4 p.m. on Monday, St. Francis Prep Principal Brother Leonard Conway emerged from the school with Congressmember Anthony Weiner to give an update on what was going on at the school.
An effort to sanitize the entire school – “every chair, every office,” – with heavy disinfectant began on Friday at 4 p.m. and was completed on Sunday around 8 p.m., according to Conway.
Conway added that the school’s administration will be meeting “to assess the latest developments” and hear recommendations from the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) to determine whether to open the school’s doors on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Weiner praised the “professionals” at St. Francis for their “aplomb,” and Conway commended the school’s “very proactive nurse” for notifying the DOHMH after close to 100 students visited her last Thursday and Friday.
Alex Guiseppone, whose daughter Arianna is a senior at St. Francis Prep who got sick but tested negative for the swine flu, hopes the school will remain cautious before sending students back inside the building.
“If kids are still coming down with this, I don’t think they should reopen the school [on Wednesday, April 29],” he said. “Even if the school is clean, if the kids have it, it’s bad.”