When Blanco County schools opened for classes on Monday, the pessimists feared it lit a short fuse on an epidemic of swine flu. The optimists say the flu bomb won't explode until November.
Both sides agree, though, the worldwide pandemic is coming back this fall, and school students are the prime target for the virus.
So far, teenagers have been hit hardest. Sub-teens and 20-somethings are next, then the numbers trail off for middle ages and beyond. If the percentages from the US Centers for Disease Control apply here, Blanco County could see thousands of flu cases this season, most of them younger than 25.
"We're watchful," said David Shanley, Superintendent of the Johnson City ISD, "but I don't know that we're more worried about the swine flu than usual."
The first weeks of classes traditionally bring a wave of bacteria and viruses kids have spent the summer collecting, and once back in school they share with their friends.
"We're also concerned about whooping cough, for example, and there's the normal seasonal flu coming on top of the swine flu."
Besides, as Shanley noted, the swine flu is only rated as moderately serious, about like regular flu. The worry is that almost no one has immunity to the new flu, so the number of cases could be huge.
Unless it is huge here, chances are slim that local schools will close. Federal recommendations, echoed by the Texas Education Agency, are to keep schools open for healthy students. Sick ones should stay home a week to 10 days, until they have been symptom-free for 24 hours. Students who get sick at school will be isolated until a parent can pick them up.
To help keep sick kids out of school, the Texas Education Agency has suggested schools be flexible on absences, even re-defining "perfect" for perfect attendance awards.
A question remains about sports and other events where students from different schools mix. Statewide and regional decisions will be made by the University Interscholastic League, but districts still can make their own choices, and Shanley says he won't hesitate to do what's right.
"One thing I'll never do is take a chance with a child's life," he said. "There's never been a game that was worth anyone's health. Not even football."