'It was just like preparing to fight a battle,' said Ng Tak-kai, the principal of CUHKFAA Thomas Cheung Secondary School. Many other primary and secondary school principals said they experienced similar feelings when faced with the dilemma of whether or not to suspend school in the early stages of the Sars outbreak. About 110 primary and secondary schools chose to suspend classes before the Education and Manpower Bureau (EMB) called for a shutdown of all schools on March 29, according to a survey conducted by Chinese University. Having interviewed 511 primary and secondary schools, the university revealed that many schools decided to shut their doors before the official government announcement because of fear of Sars and due to pressure from parents and staff. Mr Ng said that the ordinary absentee rate from school is only about 1 per cent, but after the Sars outbreak was reported it increased to about 4 per cent. He said the increasing absence of students was affecting classes and the running of the school. After discussing the problem with teachers, the decision to suspend classes was made on March 27. Lo Suk-yu, head-mistress of the PLK Fong Wong Kam Chuen Primary School, said the school had felt it was necessary to respond quickly to the outbreak. On March 25, Ms Lo learnt that a student was suspected of having Sars and had been sent to hospital. Ms Lo said that same day the school decided to suspend classes for one week. 'It was necessary to stay calm in the face of danger,' she said. 'It taught us a good lesson'.