Laura Varlas

Whole Child Podcast Preps You for H1N1

Jerry Weast, Montgomery County (Md.) Public Schools (MCPS) superintendent, leads a district of about 142,000 students. Last spring Weast's district got an early taste of H1N1 and had to temporarily shut down a school that serves 1,600 students. MCPS's strategy going into this fall's flu season? Remain calm and connected. In this month's Whole Child podcast, hear Weast and our panel of experts discuss preparations and concerns for this year's flu season.

With about 200 nurses to those 142,000 students, there has to be a lot of interagency collaboration to monitor the sick, address the concerns of the worried well, and constantly communicate with all levels of the community. Fortunately, MCPS is well connected to parents and its education community via e-mail and Web resources, and they've been working all summer to seal up any gaps in communication and ensure that messages make it home over multiple mediums to a community that speaks a range of 123 languages.

The advent of H1N1 has also created a unique opportunity for federal health and safety officials to collaborate with school communities, says Theresa Lewallen, ASCD's managing director of Constituent Services and the liaison to the federal government agencies handling H1N1. In addition to guiding schools on preventive measures and maintaining learning continuity, these groups also need to help schools balance high-stakes accountability mandates with the potential for lower attendance rates this flu season, Weast says.

Many questions linger, and the flu, by nature, is unpredictable, says registered nurse Linda Davis-Alldritt, president-elect of whole child partner the National Association of School Nurses. We know that kids 6 months to 24 years old have been the hardest hit by this flu, and we know that schools will be dealing with H1N1 on top of regular seasonal flu illness, she says. Aside from that, schools are planning responses but are also alert to any emerging patterns.

Download the podcast today and visit ASCD's H1N1 resource page to stay on top of developments relevant to the K-12 community.

How are your school and community preparing for H1N1? Share your reactions, ideas, and questions in the comments. Because now more than ever, we must strive to ensure that each child is not only healthy but also safe, engaged, supported, and challenged.

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