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IS 238 workingpast flu death as new year starts

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In years past, the adolescents at IS 238 would get a complimentary greeting from Assistant Principal Mitchell Wiener that encouraged them to work hard and follow their dreams.

The administrator, who died in the spring from swine flu, was not on hand to welcome students back for the new school year last week, but the Hollis middle school’s student body said they would carry on with their studies despite lurking fears of another outbreak of the disease.

“It’s a new school year and it’s great,” said sixth-grader Sade Wilkinson, 12.

Hundreds of students eagerly came to the school, at 88-15 182 St., bright and early Sept. 9. The opening-day excitement was a far cry from the nervous panic that resonated among students and parents when the swine flu broke out in the school in May.

Wiener, who had been at the school since 1978, and four other school members contracted the disease and dozens of other students complained of having flu-like symptoms. The assistant principal died from the swine flu, also known as the H1N1 virus, May 17 after spending nearly a week in the hospital. The school was closed down for cleaning.

Eighth-grader Bibi Alli, 13 said she felt sad about his death because he was so close to the students.

“It feels different. He used to give all the announcements in the morning and now he’s not here,” she said.

Bonnie Wiener, Mitchell Wiener’s widow who also teaches at the school, filed a notice of claim against the city last month for a negligence lawsuit. The widow, who has three sons, claims in the notice that the city failed to properly protect the school from the virus, which spread throughout several schools in the city in the spring.

Students said that they felt safe heading back to classes this year because they were notified that IS 238 was cleaned immediately after the outbreak to remove germs and they received instructions on how avoid contracting the virus.

“They just said be careful when you touch things and wash your hands,” said Bibi Bacchus, 12, a sixth-grader.

Despite the reassurances, some parents took extra precautions to shield their children from the disease. Rashida Miles of Hollis, the parent of sixth-grader Zakkiyya Miles, 11 said she stocked up on sanitizer and other anti-bacterial materials.

“I took all the necessary measures to keep her safe,” said Miles, a nurse.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

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