BELTON, Texas (KXAN) — Three Central Texas schools that closed because of an Ebola scare will reopen Monday morning for students. Belton Independent School District officials say they closed the campuses on Friday as a precaution after two students were on the flight with infected Dallas nurse Amber Vinson. She is currently being treated at the National Institutes for Health facility in Maryland.
Belton ISD hired a hazmat crew to disinfect the three schools. By the way, the Central Texas family aboard that flight plans to keep their children at home for 21 days. People in the small community of Belton never expected Ebola to hit so close to home.
A letter went home to parents of Sparta Elementary School and North Belton Middle School in Belton on Wednesday last week, saying students from each school were aboard the Frontier Airlines flight that was carrying Vinson. Both of those campuses, as well as the Belton Early Childhood School, closed for disinfection. Belton ISD Superintendent Susan Kincannon said they hired the same hazardous materials cleaning team that cleaned and sterilized facilities in Dallas — an approach that exceeded the recommendations made by local health officials.
The decision to close the schools came after the district said in a news conference Wednesday that the students are not a risk to the public and would be allowed to return to school Thursday — in fact encouraging parents and students to go to school. However, they had said that the parents had decided to keep their children at home for 21 days from the time they took the flight.
“I’m frustrated that we didn’t learn until late tonight [Wednesday night] that the CDC was re-evaluating the health risk. The health and safety of our students is my first priority,” said Kincannon last week.
The superintendent added that the school closures will also allow health officials additional time to re-assess the health risk to passengers on the plane. Meanwhile, all other Belton ISD campuses will remain open, Kincannon saying that it is safe for students to attend those schools.
Bell County Health Department Epidemiologist, Lacey Sanders, has been in close contact with the family.
The siblings traveled on Frontier Airlines Flight #1143 from Cleveland to Dallas on Monday and attended classes on Tuesday and Wednesday. They traveled on the flight with their parents and are not showing any symptoms but are being monitored by the Bell County Health Department of State Health Services. The students are considered low-risk because they didn’t have close contact with Vinson on the plane. However, one of their parents reportedly sat within 3 feet of Vinson.
After consulting with local and state health officials and the CDC, the district says there is no imminent risk to the rest of the children.
It was confirmed on Wednesday that Vinson, 29, was diagnosed with the Ebola virus. According to the CDC and Frontier Airlines, the passenger did not show any symptoms during the flight. Health officials say that the students do not need to be quarantined.
“They’re not required to be quarantined or isolated because they did not have close contact with her,” explained Lacey Sanders, epidemiologist for Bell County Health Department. “Because Ebola patient wasn’t symptomatic, CDC says the kids are very low-risk.”
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is asking all 132 passengers from Frontier flight 1143, which landed at 8:16 p.m. CT Oct. 13 after a flight from Cleveland to Dallas-Fort Worth, to call the CDC at 800-232-4636.
Belton ISD statement
Three Belton ISD schools will be closed on Thursday, October 16, 2014.
The campuses that will be closed are North Belton Middle School, Sparta Elementary and the Belton Early Childhood School.
Late tonight, I learned that officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are re-evaluating the health risk to some passengers on Frontier Airlines Flight #1143 from Cleveland to Dallas. At this time, we do not know if this will include either of the two Belton ISD students who traveled on the flight.
The two students attend North Belton Middle School and Sparta Elementary. Some pre-kindergarten students at the Belton Early Childhood School transfer through Sparta Elementary at the beginning and end of the school day.
Canceling classes at the three campuses will allow us to thoroughly clean and disinfect the schools and buses that served them this week. It will also allow health officials additional time to re-assess the health risk to passengers on the plane.
I’m frustrated that we didn’t learn until late tonight that the CDC was re-evaluating the health risk. The health and safety of our students is my first priority.
All other campuses will be open tomorrow, and it is safe for students to attend those schools.
I will remain in close contact with state and local health officials. By law they have the authority to direct our response, and we rely on their expertise and the information that they provide to make decisions.
As more information becomes available, I will share it with you.
Susan Kincannon, Ed.D.