Concerns over the swine flu virus have hit home in a big way in the Palmerton Area School District.

The school board on a 7-0 vote Tuesday agreed to hold a clinic for the H1N1 swine flu. Directors Carol Dwyer and Kerry Beidleman were absent.

Resident Bill Strauch questioned whether the H1N1 vaccination would be offered to students and staff.

Superintendent Carol Boyce said the district will stage a clinic for inoculations for the swine flu for the entire student body. She said the clinic will be held as soon as the vaccine is available.

The vaccines will be administered through the state Department of Health, at no cost to the district, Boyce said.

However, Boyce cautioned the procedure isn't mandatory, and that parents do have the option for their children.

She said the district will send home consent forms, which will have to be completed, in order for the children to receive the vaccines.

To date, Boyce said between five to six students in grades K-12 have been tested for the swine flu. However, she noted those figures are only preliminary, as they change on a daily basis.

Resident Debbie Kaintz, who has three children who are students in the district, expressed concerns with the situation.

I have been trying to get them the shot, and I wanted to know why have we as parents not been informed," Kaintz asked.

Kaintz said parents need to be better informed.

There was no letter sent home stating that it has reached our school," Kaintz said.

Boyce said the district receives staffing reports every day.

Kaintz said she's scared for her children.

It's just a very scary thing," Kaintz said. You read about it on the Internet and hear it on television."

Boyce said she understood her concern.

"If your child is scared, keep your child home," Boyce said.

Resident Tony Papay then asked Boyce how many students were absent from school on Tuesday.

Boyce said there were 89 students absent from the junior high school, and another 63 absent from the high school, with another three that went home early.

Papay then asked why the district hasn't decided to close school down.

Boyce said the district would close school only under the most severe of circumstances.

"The best medical wisdom at this time doesn't tell us that," Boyce said. The state and federal [government] recommend not shutting schools down."

Further, Boyce said the district is following the Centers for Disease Control and State Department of Health guidelines regarding its procedures.

She said children should be fever-free for at least 24 hours after they no longer take fever reducing medication before they return to school.

But, resident Lisa Zupa, who said she has a child who is a kindergarten student at the Parkside Education Center, said she, too, was upset over the lack of notice.

Wouldn't you think it best to send a note home?" Zupa asked. As parents, we try to take care of our children as best we can."

Zupa then asked whether the students would face any repercussions in the event they stay home from school.

The students are petrified," Zupa said. They're afraid to go to school."

Boyce said the district will continue to follow its student absence policy.

"If a student is absent, then we mark the student absent," she said. "When we get the excuse from the home on the child's return, then the reason is determined."