ED.gov now offers even more guidance for school leaders on reducing the spread of the flu known as H1N1—commonly called “swine flu”—and for dealing with any suspected cases of the virus at their schools.
You’ll now find answers to Frequently Asked Questions here (PDF) on ED.gov’s page on emergency planning for influenza outbreak. Culled from questions that school leaders around the country have been asking ED this week, these questions include:
What steps should school leadership take when there is a confirmed case of H1N1 flu among students or staff on campus?
When a school closes and students are dismissed, how long should the school remain closed?
If a student took a vacation in Mexico recently, should the student be kept at home?
What should we do if we have no cases in our community?
ED consulted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to develop answers to these questions—and many more. The guidance is subject to change as conditions change, so check back periodically. We are also developing a guide for parents. In the meantime, we encourage school leaders to adapt the guidance we are providing them to suit parents, faculty and staff, and students.
If you’re a school leader and you don’t have an emergency plan that deals with flu, get one. ED.gov’s Emergency Planning section for school administrators offers many resources for developing contingency plans around a number of hazards, including pandemic flu. This information is designed specifically for schools, but remember that the best guidance on health questions comes from physicians, public health agencies and other health experts.
The Department of Education’s Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools continues to monitor school closures around the country and asks schools and districts that choose to close to alert ED by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, after notifying local health authorities. As of 12 PM ET today, April 29th, ED had confirmed closures of at least 104 schools nationwide, public and nonpublic, enrolling about 56,000 students. Seventy-four of these schools closed because of confirmed or probable causes of H1N1 flu; the rest closed as a precaution. These schools are scattered among eight states.
So far, the impact on U.S. schools overall remains small—just a tiny percentage of the more than 100,000 schools nationwide, which enroll a total of approximately 55 million students. For all of them, Secretary Duncan offered this advice earlier today: “All of us involved in schools—school leaders, teachers, parents and students—need to pitch in and do our part to prevent the spread of this flu virus…Do what is appropriate for the health of your communities, your schools and your students.”