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John Pearl Elementary School parents keep children out of school to calm Ebola fears

An exterior image shows John Pearl Elementary School

An exterior image shows John Pearl Elementary School in Connetquot in June 2012. Credit: Google, 2014

Nearly two-thirds of students at one elementary school in the Connetquot school district were absent Friday after concerned parents kept them home when they learned that relatives of a student had arrived this week from a country affected by the Ebola virus.

Later Friday, district officials reported that the parents of the John Pearl Elementary School student whose relatives recently returned from West Africa have decided to keep their child out of school for 21 days to ease the concerns of parents.

"This child has had absolutely no symptoms of Ebola nor do the relatives. The parents have kindly taken this step to help calm the concerns of other parents and to ensure that there is no interruption in the education of the other students at the elementary school," according to an official statement released Friday from Lynda Adams, superintendent of the Connetquot school district.

Suffolk County health officials said they would monitor the two relatives through daily calls. That would include reminders to follow guidelines from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in these cases, including recording the twice-daily temperatures of the relatives.

District officials did not identify the student. They said Friday that only 95 students showed up out of the 250 students enrolled in the Bohemia school.

Parent Richard LaRosa, 45, of Bohemia, said he kept his two daughters out of the kindergarten through fifth grade school Friday. His daughters are in fifth and second grade.

"My daughters are friendly with the child of this family that goes to the school and we know the family very well and they are a great family and it is very upsetting that this has to go on," LaRosa said, but "as a parent I have to protect my children."

LaRosa said that after learning the student would not be in school for 21 days he would likely send his children to school Monday.

"I feel terrible, but that is almost the best result. I feel they are such a nice family and the kid is so great, I would imagine that this is going to give some people some relief," he said.

County health officials found out about the relatives late Thursday, after the school district and many concerned parents called, a health spokeswoman said. The child excitedly told other students about the relatives returning and the students told adults, the spokeswoman said.

The health department issued a statement Friday saying there are no reports of anyone in the county with Ebola symptoms.

"Suffolk County will be notified by New York State of patients returning from any of the affected countries, following their onsite evaluation by CDC personnel at JFK, and the appropriate monitoring will be conducted as per protocols," the statement said.

Suffolk health officials said they have been told the relatives were not in contact with Ebola patients and that they do not meet the CDC criteria for quarantine.

According to the World Health Organization, the incubation period, that is, the time interval from infection with the virus to onset of symptoms, is two to 21 days.

Adams also said: "We are all very grateful for the enormous sensitivity and consideration this family has shown the Connetquot Central School District community. Our school community should make every effort to show this family our appreciation."

Earlier Friday, Connetquot school district officials had reassured residents that all appropriate steps were being taken after they learned relatives of the elementary student arrived this week from a country affected by the Ebola virus.

In a statement released Friday morning, school officials said that upon learning that two family members of a student at John Pearl were due to return home Thursday they contacted the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the state Department of Health and the Suffolk County Department of Health to follow "all the appropriate protocols for the safety and health of all of our students and faculty members."

With Ellen Yan

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