Education leaders in Louisiana are taking steps to make sure parents of public school students have accurate information about the Ebola virus and that schools are prepared to respond to concerns.
A spokesman for the Louisiana Department of Education said Thursday that the newsletter the department will disseminate next week will advise school districts on how to share with principals and teachers information on symptoms of Ebola that should trigger precautionary measures by the schools, along with contact information for local health agencies.
"The safety of our students is our concern and we take it very seriously," said Michelle Blouin-Williams, deputy superintendent of Jefferson Parish Public Schools.
In Dallas, concerns over Ebola caused some parents to keep their children home Thursday after it was learned that at least five students may have come in contact with the first person in the U.S. to be diagnosed with the virus.
The Jefferson Parish school system is Louisiana's largest, with nearly 50,000 students.
"We expect the letter to give us guidance that will definitely complement what we already have in place when we possibly have students with infections. We will consult directly with our team of health professionals within our school system and communicate with our principals," said Blouin-Williams.
She said parents will receive information directly from the school district beginning next week.
In Orleans Parish, Patrick Dobard, superintendent of the Recovery School District that oversees most of the city's schools said, "We have no heard concerns. We will gladly take guidance from the state on how best to educate families."
Blouin-Williams said she knew of no calls or other communications from parents in the Jefferson Parish school district expressing concerns about the virus.
"It can be anxiety provoking," said Paulette Carter, MPH, LCSW,
She said parents should make a point to speak to their children about Ebola if they have been exposed to news coverage.
"I think what's important is for parents themselves to become educated about Ebola and how it's transmitted," said Carter.
She said it's important to corrected distorted views children may have about the virus.
"Parents really need to ask their kids, see what they're thinking about it, because a lot of times kids will come up with really scary stories based on the information that they're getting from all different places," stated Carter.
And with many kids spending a lot of time on social media, there is also the risk that they could read something online about Ebola that they don't understand and may become unnecessarily alarmed.
The state will make sure public schools play a big role in educating families across the state.
Blouin-Williams said parents who have concerns are urged to contact their child's school, or the school system office.