H1N1 (Swine) Flu
Flu Memo to Superintendents
As all of us prepare for the flu season, we are faced with a great deal of information in lengthy documents from sources such as the federal Centers for Disease Control. The volume of information can be overwhelming.
This webpage is intended to help busy district staff find brief, useful sources of information as they plan for the flu season. Your local plans should be in accordance with the recommendations of the CDC and the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services. You do not need to submit these plans to EED.
The basics of a district’s plan are not too complicated:
- Improve the sanitation of your schools and the personal sanitation of staff and students.
- Communicate with parents about their responsibilities to monitor their children’s health.
- Communicate with parents about school actions regarding the flu.
- Watch for flu symptoms among staff and students, and send ill people home.
Given the H1N1 pandemic, districts also should prepare a plan for when they would close schools and how to educate students when schools are closed. If a school is closed, EED will expect the district to submit an education plan.
Districts should also prepare a plan for their child nutrition programs in the event of an H1N1 outbreak. EED has prepared a webpage containing guidance for schools regarding the distribution of school meals during a school closure. For more information, please visit the department's webpage at http://www.eed.state.ak.us/tls/cnp/H1N1.html.
In the event of emergency school closures, districts are required to notify the department in writing within 24 hours and submit a modified school calendar as soon as possible. Districts are provided several options for subsituting closure days; however, the commissioner will decide whether to approve all, some, or none of the days requested. For more information regarding the regulations surrounding emergency school closures, please review 4 AAC 05.090.
In addition, CDC is asking all schools to fill out a very short online form if they close because of the flu. The form is here: http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/schools/dismissal_form/. Please cooperate with CDC.
When H1N1 vaccines become available, possibly in the fall, schools may well be sites for voluntary vaccinations. DHSS is organizing this effort and will communicate with EED and the districts as information becomes available.
Meanwhile, here are some materials that will help you create a local flu-response plan. They are short and to-the-point.
This two-page flier from DHSS is a good guide for staff and parents: http://www.eed.state.ak.us/tls/SchoolHealth/pdf/ImportantSchoolFlier.pdf.
This guidance from DHSS provides clear, practical advice on how to reduce the spread of flu: http://www.hss.state.ak.us/press/2009/H1N1school_os_050509.pdf.
Here is a five-page document, mostly presented in graphics, that summarizes pandemic flu, preventive measures, and how schools can plan for a pandemic: http://www.ed.gov/admins/lead/safety/emergencyplan/pandemic/planning-guide/planning-guide.pdf.
The following guidance was put forth by the US Department of Education as recommendations to ensure the continuity of education should students fall ill with the H1N1 virus: http://www.ed.gov/admins/lead/safety/emergencyplan/pandemic/guidance/continuity-recs.pdf
This web page provides a communication tool kit for schools, including posters, fact sheets and sample letters: http://www.flu.gov/plan/school/toolkit.html.
We will keep you informed about any flu-related state regulations or procedures. DHSS will continue to communicate with superintendents through e-mailed memos, which we will send to you.
For state-related guidance and updates on the H1N1 flu virus, please visit the state's multi-agency pandemic flu website at http://www.pandemicflu.alaska.gov/
The following steps can be taken to prepare for the prevention and response to an outbreak:
- Review important links for updated guidance.
- Train nurses and staff members to watch for signs and symptoms of H1N1 illness, which are similiar to those of seasonal flu. Students or staff members who exhibit these signs should be sent home immediately.
- Create an absentee and sick leave policy for students and staff requiring the ill to stay home. Distribute policy to parents.
- Prepare for possible vaccine distribution within schools. Once the vaccine is available, vaccinations will be voluntary, but may be targeted at school-aged children.
- Update district crisis response plans. Districts are required by law to have current crisis response plans in place. Visit the Crisis Response Planning webpage for more information.
Health-Related Closure Guidance
- Sec. 14.03.030. School term.
A school term begins and ends on the dates fixed by the governing body of a school district. A school term shall include not less than 180 days in session unless, with the approval of the commissioner,
(1) a day used for in-service training of teachers is substituted for a day in session, up to a maximum of 10 days;
(2) an "emergency closure day" is substituted for a day in session because of conditions posing a threat to the health or safety of students; or
(3) the school board adopts a different school term that includes at least 740 hours of instruction and study periods for pupils in kindergarten, first grade, second grade, and third grade and at least 900 hours of instruction and study periods for pupils in grades four through 12 if the commissioner finds that the school board has submitted an acceptable plan under which students will receive the approximate educational equivalent of a 180-day term.
- Alaska Regulation 4 AAC 05.090(e) Discontinuation or closure of schools
A superintendent may order one or more emergency closure days of a school for a period of less than five school days, or longer on an emergency, or case-by-case basis, if approved by the commissioner. The superintendent shall notify the department in writing within 24 hours of identifying such an emergency or case-by-case situation and take immediate steps to modify the school term and to reopen the schools.