Here’s What Happened When Students Went to School During the 1918 Pandemic

“Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” – George Santayana

This isn’t the first time leaders have struggled with deciding whether or not to keep schools open in a pandemic. Our ancestors faced the same issues. During the influenza pandemic in 1918, even though the world was a very different place, the discussion was just as heated.

The 1918-1920 Spanish Flu pandemic killed an estimated 5 million people worldwide, including 675,000 Americans, before it was all over. If you had an ancestor who died in the years 1918 through 1920, there is a very good chance that he or she died of the Spanish Flu.

While the vast majority of cities closed their schools, three opted to keep their schools open — New York, Chicago and New Haven, according to historians.

The results were not good in those school districts.

“For students from the tenement districts, school offered a clean, well-ventilated environment where teachers, nurses, and doctors already practiced — and documented — thorough, routine medical inspections” according to a Public Health Report written in 2020.

New York city was one of the hardest and earliest hit by the flu, said Dr. Howard Markel, a medical historian and director of the Center for the History of Medicine at the University of Michigan and also co-author of the 2010 Public Health Reports article mentioned above.

You can read more in a current-day article by Theresa Waldrop and published in the CNN website at: as well as the article written by the same Dr. Howard Markel at

Graves of 1918 Pandemic Victims

Source: Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter

Posted On: August 19, 2020 at 04:50PM