School officials seek to protect students from Zika on first day of school

MIAMI (WSVN) - School Board officials are working to keep students safe from the Zika virus now that the new school year is about to start.

About 4,000 students attend schools that are in and around the Zika transmission zone, in addition to hundreds of teachers and employees, and the school system is working overtime to make sure that they have a Zika prevention plan in place.

Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho has zoned in on Zika prevention as the first day of school, on Aug. 22, quickly approaches. “Prevention and protection, two sides of the same coin, has a solution,” he said.

During a school board meeting, Wednesday afternoon, Carvalho outlined a plan to protect students, teachers and employees.

Six Miami-Dade County Public Schools are in or near the designated Zika transmission area:

  • Design and Architecture Senior High
  • Young Men’s Preparatory Academy
  • Phillis Wheatley Elementary School
  • Jose De Diego Middle School
  • Eneida M. Hartner Elementary
  • Paul Laurence Dunbar Elementary School

In addition to daily inspections, including draining standing water and using mosquito repellent dunks outdoors, the six schools will have a visit on the first day from the Florida Department of Health. They will be answering questions and distributing repellent to families who need it.

If the health department decides outdoor activity should be limited, schools will be ready to bring P.E. classes inside or move after school activities to another location.

While school officials are keeping a close eye on each campus, they’re asking parents to do their part.

M-DCPS officials have left voice messages to families about the virus and simple steps for prevention. “You can guard against mosquito borne illnesses, such as the Zika virus by wearing long shirts and long pants,” the voice message said.

Principals at schools in or near the transmission zone will take a relaxed approach when it comes to uniforms as an effort to make sure arms and legs are covered.

“The best preventive tool we have is aggressive awareness and communication,” Carvalho said.

A week before the first bell rings, a communication plan will kick in, email, social media and face-to-face meetings will also take place to make sure all employees, parents and students are ready.

Families who are in need of insect repellent can call the Florida Department of Health at 305-324-2400.

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