Dallas Schools Try Calm Parents Nervous About Ebola
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
In Dallas today, attendance was off about 10 percent at four schools. Those schools have students who may have come in contact with the first Ebola patient diagnosed in the U.S. Five students are being kept out of classes and are under observation. The school district has added extra custodians and nurses and is trying to reassure parents that their children are safe. NPR's Sam Sanders stopped by those schools today to talk with parents and students.
SAM SANDERS, BYLINE: It looked like a regular Thursday morning at Conrad High School. School buses and parents in the driveway - administrators standing watch. But talk to the students and you'll quickly hear that something's up.
(SOUNDBITE OF ROAD NOISE)
SANDERS: So you scared?
JESUS SANCHEZ: Well, like, a little bit, 'cause like who wouldn't be? But I guess you just got to live with it. You got to come to school.
SANDERS: Jesus Sanchez is a sophomore at Conrad and he's worried about Ebola. At least one student at the school was ordered to stay home as a precaution and is being watched closely. But Sanchez and lots of others say it's a little weird to be back on campus. And they're doing things a little differently today.
LIZBETH NAVA: Today it's just like, oh, don't touch me, you know. (Laughter). Get some hand sanitizer, staying away from people that are sick and all that. So I won't get the - what's it called?
NAVA: Yeah. (Laughter).
SANDERS: That's Lizbeth Nava. She's a senior at Conrad. And she was kind of confused yesterday. Students were seeing the news on the Internet and social media before teachers had addressed the issue. One student, Michelle Bullard, said she even left school yesterday without ever having a staff member even say the word Ebola to her class
MICHELLE BULLARD: It's like they were hiding something.
SANDERS: School officials say they've been working hard to communicate with students, staff and parents - all kinds of ways - letters sent home with kids, TV and local media, social media and an Ebola hotline.
(SOUNDBITE OF EBOLA HOTLINE)
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: The safety of our students at Dallas ISD is our priority and we take every measure possible to ensure the health and well-being of each student. It has been confirmed that five students may have come in contact with an individual recently diagnosed with the Ebola virus.
SANDERS: Today, DISD superintendent Mike Miles said additional custodians and health staff are staying on extra duty to put people at ease
MIKE MILES: We have additional nurses and health professionals on staff today, yesterday and we'll continue that tomorrow and then probably until next week. And those health professionals are answering questions from parents, from students.
SANDERS: And Mazen Jaafar is one of those parents with questions. Jaafar has a seven-year-old at Rogers Elementary, one of the affected schools. His son brought home some paperwork about Ebola Wednesday after school. But Jaafar says he's back today to ask a few more questions
MAZEN JAAFAR: I came today to ask about what - if there is any problem with this thing. I don't know. I just - I came here to ask them.
SANDERS: He went inside for a few minutes. And when he came out, he was satisfied.
JAAFAR: They told me everything OK. And I see that. They have a nurse now to check everything is OK. They are good. They have good staff. And I'm really comfortable.
SANDERS: Jaafar left with a smile on his face and a happy kid playing in his classroom. Sam Sanders, NPR News, Dallas. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.