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With Fort Worth Schools Out, Parents Struggle

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With Fort Worth Schools Out, Parents Struggle

Education

With Fort Worth Schools Out, Parents Struggle

With Fort Worth Schools Out, Parents Struggle

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The Fort Worth, Texas, School District is among those that have closed following the outbreak of swine flu. Classes won't resume until May 11. Until then, parents have their hands full all day.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

For 245,000 American children today, swine flu didn't seem so bad. It meant a day out of school to spend, well, to spend in front of the Xbox or the Playstation, probably. As a precaution, 433 schools are now closed in 17 states from Maine to Alabama to California. The bulk of the closures are in Texas, and leading the way there, Fort Worth. Classrooms there are shut through next week, as NPR's Wade Goodwyn reports.

WADE GOODWYN: In times of public health crisis, it's important for leaders to communicate in a language people can understand. Fort Worth Mayor Mike Moncrief is an excellent example.

Mayor MIKE MONCRIEF (Forth Worth, Texas): This is a different critter than Fort Worth has dealt with before, but we will address it.

GOODWYN: There are now nine confirmed cases in Fort Worth, and the school district has set up a hotline to answer parents' questions. The SAT tests tomorrow have been cancelled, too. While the schools are wiped down, Dr. Sandra Parker, county medical director, says the kids need to stay away from each other.

Dr. SANDRA PARKER (County Medical Director): We have recommended that they stay at home. We don't think that they should be involved in any group activities outside of the school. So that would include things like the mall, going to the movie theatres.

(Soundbite of music)

GOODWYN: Well, how about the zoo? It's a warm, cloudy, breezy Friday at the world famous Fort Worth Zoo, and they're expecting north of 2,000 children.

Unidentified Woman: For the safety of our animals, I have to ask you to remove your lid from your cup.

GOODWYN: Over at the cheetah enclosure, a pounding waterfall completes the jungle scene. Mandy Anseldua(ph) is here with his wife Vilma(ph) and their two sons, Anthony and Nathan, who are in first and second grade, but not today. They're on swine flu holiday.

Mr. MANDY ANSELDUA: Yeah, we didn't know what, you know, what to think. We saw kids the other day walking to school with a mask on, so…

GOODWYN: Anseldua runs a call center and gets benefits, so he's taking a paid vacation today. But some of his employees, who don't get paid vacation, are suffering.

Mr. ANSELDUA: I had a couple of girls that are in the Fort Worth district as well, and both of them got, didn't have babysitters, so they had to miss a day at work, non-paid. I actually had a girl come to the call center with her child yesterday and worked all day, while her 10-year-old was in the call center. So…

Mr. LUKE RIMES: (unintelligible)

GOODWYN: Six-year-old Luke Rimes(ph) has heard all about the H1N1 virus. He, for one, is not missing first grade, and he's not worried about being at the zoo either.

GOODWYN: Were you scared to come here?

Mr. RIMES: Mm, no.

GOODWYN: Tell me why not.

Mr. RIMES: Because I wanted to see the animals.

GOODWYN: Parents here don't seem overly concerned, saying if their children get the flu, they'll take them to the doctor. One after another, the kids scramble up the log fences in front of the animals, leaning in towards them as far as they can. Whether those hands will get washed before they go in mouths or noses is probably an even bet. Wade Goodwyn, NPR News, Dallas.

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