Local schools are taking no chances when it comes to the H1N1 virus.

Prevention seems to be the main focus at this point, as concern over the pandemic is apparent everywhere.

“We really stepped up by trying to inform and educate parents,” said District 91 Superintendent Lou Cavallo.

Cavallo has imparted a sense of urgency upon teachers and faculty members at each of Forest Park’s five public schools to constantly remind students to wash their hands and maintain good hygiene.

“At least twice during the day I asked that teachers ask the students to wash their hands,” Cavallo said.

A close eye is also being kept on the attendance records at all of the schools. Thus far, though, the absentee rate is entirely normal, with the exception of a slight hike at Betsy Ross Elementary this past Friday; one that Cavallo half-jokingly attributed to bad weather, since the numbers were stable by Monday.

Furthermore, the district is also working side-by-side with the Cook County Department of Public Health to disseminate information regarding the H1N1 vaccine to parents.

“We’ve received a lot of information from the [Cook County Department of Public Health],” Cavallo said.

“I think we probably sent out a dozen fliers with preventative measures … [and] information about the vaccine; about the two different vaccines and the benefits and risks,” he added.

Locals within the H1N1-vaccine-prioritized group – pregnant women, persons caring for infants, health care personnel, healthy individuals between six months and 24 years in age and those between 25 and 64 that have a chronic illness – can be vaccinated on an appointment-only basis at a number of locations.

Note that supply is limited, though.

Information on scheduling an appointment can be obtained at the Cook County health department Web site at www.cookcountypublichealth.org, and the locations of vaccination sites are available on an Illinois Department of Public Health Web page at www.idph.state.il.us.

“The schedule is flexible and fluid in that we do not know when, how and what type of vaccine we will be receiving on a weekly and daily basis,” said Amy Poore, a Cook County Department of Public Health spokeswoman.

There are three confirmed cases of the H1N1 virus at District 209, all at Proviso Math and Science Academy located in Forest Park.

According to a press release from District 209 Superintendent Nettie Collins-Hart, the “cases were identified quickly and were isolated to help prevent further incidents.”

Although the virus’ presence has only been confirmed in one of the district’s three high schools, Marianne Fidishin, District 209 director of special programs, said the same preventative and educational measures are being undertaken at all the of the schools.

District 209 is also taking preventative measures that mirror those employed by the local elementary school district. These are the same methods that were in place prior to the recent announcement of the three cases at PMSA.

“Not much has changed,” Fidishin said. “We’ve been working closely with the CCDPH … and we have also launched our own system.”

TaQuoya Kennedy, a spokeswoman for the district, noted that fliers were sent to parents in both English and Spanish.

“We are asking everyone, everywhere to watch their health,” Kennedy said.