Nurses working in the Lehighton Area School District addressed the school board during last night's meeting to present an update on the H1N1 vaccine. They also discussed flu prevention tactics learned during a regional health conference.

The school nurses recently attended a conference run by Dr. Luther Rhodes, Chief of the Infectious Disease Division at Lehigh Valley Hospital.

“There are a number of things that schools can do to prevent the spread of infection," reported Kathy Lloyd, the nurse at Franklin Elementary School. She noted that the first tip Rhodes shared was to stay informed, because information about the H1N1 flu is constantly changing.

“Our school district has taken every opportunity to educate parents," she added.

The district recently distributed a “Top 10 tips" about preventing the flu to parents in the district, and is also handing out flyers about the H1N1 vaccine. Parents and school factulty can get the latest information on the flu's local impact at www.h1n1inpa.com [1] or at www.health.state.pa.us [2].

Lloyd reported that Rhodes' other tips focused on hygiene and “social distancing." Students and employees with the flu should remain home until they are fever-free for 24 hours, without the help of fever-reducing medication. All should practice good hygiene practices, including washing hands and coughing into a tissue or their elbow. Hand sanitizers are being provided in the cafeteria, computer rooms, and weight rooms. Teachers are also encouraged to stock hand sanitizer on their desk to further prevent the spread of germs.

Superintendent James Kraky thanked Lloyd for her report, and noted that the district's nurses have played a key role in Lehighton's H1N1 prevention and vaccination program.

“Our nurses really took it as a challenge to get together a comprehensive program," he said. “They've put together what I consider a model program. We're very proud of them."

During the meeting, board members also voted to approve the district's vaccination program, which will allow faculty and students with parental permission slips to receive the H1N1 vaccine during school hours.

Parent Mary Durishin addressed the school board with a concern about middle school bus transportation. Her daughter, now in 7th grade, is no longer allowed to ride the school bus because she lives in town. Her 6th grade child is permitted to use the bus. Both attend Lehighton Area Middle School on Beaver Run Road.

Durishin has spoken with school board members and Kraky, asking that they change the rules for middle school students, or adjust the guidelines for town boundaries.

“I haven't received any substantial feedback," she said. “I live on Bridge Street. Maybe that's considered in town. But whichever way you walk, it's 12 blocks." She added that she is less concerned about the distance than safety issues.

“It's a safety concern," said Durishin. She added that Lehighton currently has 15 registered sexual offenders living within the school district, including three within her neighborhood.

“This is a big safety concern. You're not talking about high school kids," she said. “The kids are in school together, fifth through eighth grade. Why can't they ride the bus together?"

Durishin added she also has difficulty dropping off and picking up her children because of her work schedule.

“I'm requesting that you change the policy, and that you have seventh and eighth graders picked up. Twelve blocks is a long way," she said.

Kraky thanked her for her concern. He noted that the district policy cannot be changed for one student, but that the issue may need to be looked into.

“The policy has been that from seventh grade up, they can walk that distance," he said. “It's not simply one student when you look at that issue. If we're changing that rule, what other rules will we have to change?"

Gloria Bowman, coordinator of curriculum, instruction and grant writing, offered a short update on the county's three year professional development plan.

“It has been very cost-effective, because everyone is sharing part of the cost throughout the county," she said. Bowman noted that administrators throughout the county are networking and sharing ideas about growth and problem-solving.

“Hopefully the teachers are happy with it," she said. “We've gotten a lot of positive feedback about it."

The board also announced that the district is in the process of replacing the middle school hot water heater. Advertisements for bids will run over the next few weeks. A tentative special board meeting was scheduled for November 9 to examine the bids.

The next regularly scheduled board meeting will be held November 23 at 7 p.m.