The severe acute respiratory syndrome has an incubation period of 10 days and many independent boarding schools in England, including Eton College, attended by Prince Harry, insist that pupils travelling from at-risk areas spend that time in quarantine.
However, the Department for Education and Skills advises that pupils returning from the Far East who are well and show no signs of the virus should be allowed to continue their schooling as normal.
At Wellington school in Somerset, where Alan Rogers, the head, has joined 16 pupils in quarantine, bursar Richard Coupe said the school wanted to ensure peace of mind for parents.
He said: "We think it is sensible to take precautions. Our pupils will be isolated in a separate boarding house with the head and his wife, who will be teaching and looking after them."
Dr Margaret Hustler, head of Harrogate Ladies' College, Yorkshire, is also living in a boarding house with 42 of her pupils who returned from the Far East on Wednesday.
At Durham School, 20 pupils who have visited affected areas during the Easter holiday will have their temperature checked twice a day for any increase, which may be one of the earliest symptoms of the virus. It has so far killed more than 250 people worldwide.