Some schools in western Massachusetts are changing up their schedules to help protect students from a mosquito-borne virus.
Eastern Equine Encephalitis, or EEE, is a rare but potentially fatal illness that's been detected in hundreds of mosquito samples around the state.
Alvin Morton, assistant superintendent at Chicopee Public Schools, said the school's first football game is scheduled for Friday, but will either be bumped to earlier in the day or Saturday. The district is following the state's recommendation that people stay indoors from dusk until dawn.
"We're ...concerned about the dusk time, and it constantly moving back from week to week and making it harder and harder for us to modify the schedule," Morton said. "So we're hoping that frost comes sooner than later."
A hard frost would kill off the mosquitos.
The school nurse leader at Belchertown Public Schools, Phyllis DuComb, said they're adjusting the timing of their football games as well, and have made sure cross country routes do not go through wooded areas.
Rowe Elementary School is taking a different approach. Parents can sign a permission slip requesting their children stay indoors at recess. Principal Bill Knittle said out of 74 kids, 12 are staying inside so far.
"We're finding some fun things to do inside, keeping them active," Knittle said Wednesday. "Yesterday, we played 'Human Battleship' in the gym, and today, we played basketball."
Knittle said those students can return to outdoor play after that first hard frost.
Symptoms of EEE include a high fever, stiff neck and lack of energy. It can progress to encephalitis — or swelling of the brain — which causes severe brain damage or death.
Communities like Granby, Colrain and Heath are currently at critical risk of EEE, with surrounding areas at high risk, according to the state. One person has died from the virus in Massachusetts this year. Three others have been infected.
No human cases of EEE have been detected in Vermont or Connecticut.