Swine flu has shuttered several schools in the area, including the Kearny High complex and the San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts in San Diego Unified. So what actually happens when you shut down schools for two weeks? And how will schools recover from losing all that time?

San Diego Unified Superintendent Terry Grier said that California officials will not require San Diego Unified to make up the missing days. Teachers and other employees will continue to be paid. But schools are trying to plug the gap with online classes and televised lessons through the County Office of Education. Losing time in the classroom could be especially detrimental for disadvantaged students, who tend to lag more after breaks than their peers, and the school district is already proposing to shorten the school year to save money.

The school district is also prodding teachers to return to work on Wednesday, minus the schoolchildren, to plan lessons, get training or do other work that might have been sidelined. Custodians have already been sent to clean the buildings. Grier emphasized that even though the schools have been shut down, county officials and health experts have advised them that it is safe for adults to return to the school building because the virus cannot survive on hard surfaces for longer than a few hours.

“Having the adults together would not be a problem as long as they were not sick,” Grier said the officials advised him.

That rankles with the teachers union, which wants teachers to be able to stay home and work there if they choose to. Union President Camille Zombro said that it seemed to defeat the purpose of closing a school to bring workers back together. Even if the health threat is minimal, she said, employees should have the option of working from home if children are away.

“People are really freaking out,” Zombro said. “Our position is that they should not have to go. Grading papers, reading professional books, calling people on the phone, planning lessons — all of these things can be done at home. It’s just such a simple act of goodwill.”

San Diego Unified is also hoping to sway county officials to shorten the closure by tracking the number of sick children. Thus far one child at each of the closed schools is suspected of having the virus, according to an update sent by the school district this afternoon.


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