Three Queens schools are being closed Friday because hundreds of students have reported flu symptoms and four cases of swine flu have been verified including an assistant principal who has been hospitalized in critical condition.
IS 238 in Hollis, PS 16 in Corona and IS 5 in Elmhurst will be shuttered for five days each.
"There is an unusually high level of flu levels at those schools," Mayor Bloomberg said a press conference surrounded by Gov. David Paterson, and health and school officials.
Four students and a staff member have tested positive for swine flu at IS 238. More than 50 students have been sent home since last Wednesday and the staff member is extremely ill and may be near death. Hundreds of other students have been out sick with flu symptoms at the other schools in recent days, according to the health department spokesman.
"It is greatest in Queens but evident in all five boroughs, "Bloomberg said. "H1N1 appears to spread rapidly. We're closing these schools in order to slow transmission."
All three schools are special education schools with more than 4,000 students.
The city is taking the step to close the schools because an IS 238 assistant principal has been identified as the city first "critical" case. The assistant principal has been hospitalized, requires a tube to breath, and is near death, according to The New York Times.
The school closings " will impose difficulty on some families, but we think these measures are absolutely necessary," Bloomberg said.
The city's teachers union said it working closely with public health officials.
“The United Federation of Teachers has been working closely with the Department of Education, the Department of Health and the Mayor’s office on this matter, and we are very concerned for students and staff at all three schools as well as their families. We hope that the measures being taken to address the situation will alleviate the need for additional steps. We will continue to monitor the situation and we hope that everyone affected will make a quick recovery.”