Elementary students in Palo Alto coping with teacher's sudden death 

A fifth-grade teacher at Hoover Elementary School in Palo Alto died Sunday after a brief illness, and health officials are looking into the possibility that he might have had meningitis.

In a letter sent to parents Monday, the school district described the teacher, George Flath, as an "uplifting, vibrant teacher who cherished his work" at Hoover Elementary. His family was with him when he died.

Grief counselors were at the school Monday to help students and staff members cope with the sudden loss, a school official said.

A doctor from the Santa Clara County Public Health Department also went to the school to talk to parents and students about meningitis.

"At this point the risk of anybody else contracting the disease is extremely low," department spokeswoman Joy Alexiou said.

Contracting the disease requires close contact such as kissing or drinking out of the same water glass, Alexiou said. It is not spread through the air.

The health department did, however, offer preventive antibiotics to students in Flath's class as well as staff members. Alexiou said most of the parents accepted the antibiotics for their children as a precaution.

She said health officials won't know for sure whether Flath had meningitis for several more days.

A substitute teacher was teaching Flath's class today, a school official said.

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