On any given day, educational institutions house more 20 percent of the United States population. This equates to more than 60 million students, facility, and staff.
According to the U.S Secretary of Education, “Pandemic influenza could have a profound effect on our nation’s school systems. Children would be expected to have high rates of infection and are more likely than adults to spread infection…an important issue for educators during a pandemic will be the decision of whether to close schools. School closure might be necessary to protect the health of students and school personnel, to limit the spread of the virus, or in response to student and/or staff absences.”
In order to prepare for pandemic influenza, local health departments should consider with local public schools. Schools can play an important role in prevention, preparedness, response, and recovery. In addition, more than 47,000 nurses are employed by educational facilities in the United States, representing a workforce that can be leveraged in public health responses.
As with most other preparedness activities, building partnerships and planning ahead is key. Fortunately, there are tools to help! The Santa Clara County Public Health Department Advanced Practice Center created the Pandemic Influenza School Planning Toolkit to assist local public health agencies in partnering with schools within their jurisdictions for pandemic emergency preparedness planning. The toolkit is designed to meet the following objectives:
- Increase awareness of the threat of a pandemic influenza and its impact on the school community.
- Guide schools in developing specific pandemic influenza measures to integrate into their emergency crisis plans.
A plan template is provided to guide development of pandemic specific measures to augment a school’s emergency crisis plan. The plan template is supported by several tools (e.g., communications tools and continuity of instruction tools) to assist schools in completing specific template sections. The template, when completed by a school, becomes the school’s pandemic plan. The Pandemic Influenza School Planning Toolkit is free – download today!