Melissa Mellor

What to Do About the Flu

Districts and schools across the country are bracing for H1N1 as the new school year begins. The virus took hold in dozens of camps this summer, prompting concerns among school officials that kids will be bringing more than new backpacks and notebooks with them at the start of the school year.

From Nashville to New York, schools seem to be taking to heart new guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention designed to curb the spread of the flu while minimizing disruptions to learning. They're educating students about proper hygiene, communicating to parents the importance of keeping their sick children at home at least 24 hours after they no longer have a fever, and making preparations to separate ill students and staff or selectively close schools with high-risk populations should the need arise.

What's less apparent from news accounts is how schools are planning to ensure that learning continues if the virus spreads widely, forcing closures.

A couple of anecdotes demonstrate the possibilities. According to a Baltimore Sun article, Maryland's Anne Arundel County Public Schools has prepared contingency plans in case schools are closed. Over the summer, officials considered how they could offer homework assignments or teach online. The Los Angeles Times reports that Los Angeles Unified School District is contemplating various methods of continuing children's education by delivering lessons and instructions through public access television, automated phone calls, the Internet, and the mail.

ASCD is creating a special Web page that will provide educators with a variety of resources and information about the latest H1N1 developments and advice on how to minimize the virus's affect on student learning. The page will go live on ASCD's Web site later this week.

UPDATE (Aug. 19): The H1N1 page is now live at www.ascd.org/flu

How is your school preparing for the flu, both in terms of preventing its spread and facilitating continuous learning in the case of an outbreak? Share your strategies below; select stories might be highlighted on ASCD's H1N1 Web page.

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