June 11, 2009
First, we want to commend teachers, parents, and administrators for the tremendous job you
have done to address the challenges so many of you have faced as a result of the HlNI flu
outbreak, particularly balancing health and safety requirements with the educational, business,
and social needs of the community. As this school year comes to a close, we urge you to begin
thinking about the next school year and how we can work together to keep our students and local
communities safe. We also offer our support toward that end.
The HINI virus has been shown to affect school-aged children disproportionately, and children
are known to be highly likely to transmit flu viruses, especially in school and other group
settings. Furthermore, scientists and public health experts are concerned that the novel HlNI
virus may persist into the fall, potentially as a more severe strain, causing more serious and lifethreatening
illness. The Department of Health and Human Services is talcing the steps necessary
to secure HI NI flu vaccine for possible use in the fall. If a vaccination program is initiated,
however, the vaccine will not be available until several weeks after the school year begins.
Therefore, it will be critical for schools to begin planning non-pharmaceutical interventions to
prevent disease transmission and protect students and staff, as well as local communities, from
infection. Depending on the timing and severity of a potential fall H 1 N 1 wave, those
interventions could include: extra measures to ensure that commonly touched surfaces are
disinfected, strict enforcement of exclusion policies for students and staff with flu-like
symptoms, or extended school closures. In addition, because schools could be used as vaccine
distribution locations, schools should consider how they might accommodate such requests.
While all of us want to do all we can to keep students engaged in learning and maintain a sense
of normalcy, we need to be ready for whatever the fall may bring.
Most public schools already are required to have emergency plans, which ideally consider a
range of scenarios. The summer months ahead offer time to prepare and refine school “allhazards”
plans and ensure that parents make their own contingency plans. To that end, we
recommend the following:
■ Update your emergency plans and ensure all your contact lists are up to date. If you do
not already have such a plan, we encourage you to develop one. To initiate or build upon
an all-hazards plan, visit http://www.ed.gov/cmergencyplan and http://rems.ed.gov.
June 11, 2009