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Union says swine flu could be in 40 schools, launches flu hotline

A day after a Queens assistant principal died from swine flu, the teachers union says it is monitoring 40 schools where higher-than-normal numbers of children are calling in sick. The United Federation of Teachers said today it is launching a hotline to keep track of the disease.

The union’s watch list doubled in size over the weekend, spokesman Ron Davis told GothamSchools. At least four more schools were closed today, bringing the total number of closed schools up to 14, according to the Department of Education. Davis said the list of 40 schools includes some that have already been closed.

The union is using its hotline as an information source for people to call in and learn which schools are closed in their district. Union chapter leaders will report to the hotline daily about absentee numbers for students and teachers at their schools. (Each district in Queens, where the epidemic appears to be centered, has its own number; the other boroughs have one number each.)

The UFT gave the Department of Education and the Department of Health the list of at-risk schools today, Davis said. The two city agencies decide together which schools should close.

Davis said teachers are remaining calm. “There are teachers out there who are obviously concerned but our teachers as a rule don’t panic,” he said.

The mayor addressed the disease’s spread in a press conference today, saying that it’s possible more schools could close this week.

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