One pint-sized chair was visibly and tragically empty at Center Avenue Elementary School in East Rockaway, while happy-go-lucky kindergarteners came back from vacation to find one of their precious friends gone.
According to fellow parents, the young girl got the flu last week at the beginning of winter break. By Friday, she was dead.
"Tragic for everyone but most particularly the family, My heart goes out to them," parent Kate Lukens said.
Officials report she died from influenza. Tests are now being done to see if it was type A or B.
H1N1, also known as the swine flu, is type A.
So far this flu season, 41 children nationwide have died from influenza.
Dr. Steven Wales says this latest loss is a grim reminder for all families to get their shots, even now.
"Any one of us are at risk. Although it's late in the season, flu season lasts until April," said Dr. Steven Wales, of the Nassau University Medical Center.
Parents tell Eyewitness News they received a letter from the district assuring them the classrooms had been cleaned and that it was safe to return.
Superintendent Dr. Roseanne Melucci released a statement saying, "All of us in the East Rockaway School District mourn the loss of one of our students who passed away on Friday, February 25, 2011. We extend our deepest condolences to the family during this unexpected tragedy.
According to information provided by the Nassau County Department of Health, preliminary testing indicates that this death is associated with Influenza. The Department of Health has advised me that this situation does not pose any increased threat to the health and safety of our students and staff compared to the entire region and community, as influenza is present throughout.
We have assembled a crisis team of social workers, psychologists, and other support personnel from all of our schools to assist in supporting the students and staff of our educational family. We will continue to provide support for as long as is necessary."