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Italian Exchange group asked to stay home amid Coronavirus concerns

The Italian Exchange group poses in Italy shortly before returning to the United States Sunday, March 1, and being asked to stay home until further notice. (Photo courtesy of exchange group)

Students who recently returned from the Italian Exchange are required to stay home from school until Monday, March 16, due to the recent coronavirus outbreak in Italy, according to an email sent out by superintendent David Fleishman.

According to the Newton Public Schools (NPS) website, this decision to make students on the Italian exchange stay home was implemented to “prevent any potential exposure” to students and staff at North. In his email, Fleishman said that the students will return to school once NPS has been advised it is safe for them to return by Newton’s Health and Human Services. 

Parents and siblings of the students returning from Italy are allowed to attend school and work said Deborah Youngblood, the Commissioner of Health and Human Services in Newton, in a message to parents and students. The returning students are being asked to stay home and monitor their health. 

“Considering how international governments are treating the virus and how it’s being treated throughout the rest of the United States, the choice that the school made is following everything that everyone else has done,” said Tamara, who participated in the exchange but only wanted to go by her first name. “As far as I can see, I can’t really blame them, even if I would have rather gone to school.”

According to Fleishman, the city-wide Emergency Management Team has formed a committee to apply its emergency preparedness plans to potential scenarios regarding the coronavirus. 

“I think it’s really important that we support our students that are back from Italy but not back at school,” Fleishman said. “I think it’s really important to also support each other, don’t ostracise any students, we value students attending school.  I think it’s very important in these unsettling times that we support each other.”

NPS consulted the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) and the Newton Health and Human Services Department before making their decisions. 

Filippo Menozzi ‘19, who currently attends Bocconi University in Milan where classes are canceled until February 28, said the disease was mainly concentrated in Northern Italy. The students on the trip stayed in Florence for three weeks and Rome for one week. 

“It’s an interesting decision,” Menozzi said. “The students are going into classes with close contact with people. It’s a very contagious disease and there’s nothing you can do about that. In terms of taking precautionary measures, I see where they are coming from.”  

“We’re talking about two weeks of missed school,” Menozzi added. “But school doesn’t stop for North’s students, and these kids might be off school for two weeks and that’s going to be a disadvantage.”

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