August 24, 2009
SUBJECT: H1N1 flu virus
To the Administrator Addressed:
Beginning in April 2009, the State of Texas began responding to the outbreak of the H1N1 flu virus. Because there was limited knowledge of the severity of the flu strain, the Department of State Health Services recommended school closures in those areas believed to be affected by the H1N1virus. With new information and research, it is evident that this flu strand contains moderate symptoms that resemble those in seasonal flu, and thus school closures will no longer be recommended to limiting transmission. However, due to the potential of outbreaks this school year, in addition to seasonal flu and other emergency concerns, the Texas Education Agency (TEA or agency) encourages districts to review their emergency preparedness plans, including the below recommendations.
District staff should consider:
- “Trigger points” for absenteeism should be set in anticipation of district or campus closure. This should be done after reviewing the waiver procedures on the TEA website. Teacher absenteeism, staff student ratios, student absenteeism or local ability to sustain educational capacity may be considered. Waiver applications for both missed instructional days and low attendance are available at http://www.tea.state.tx.us/waivers/waiverapps.html. For more information about waivers, please contact the Waivers Division at (512) 463-5917 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Effective communication plans district wide and between the community and the district. These entities should include the local/regional health official, county judge, emergency personnel, volunteer organizations to assist parents, and local/regional food banks (pantry) for assistance with breakfast and lunch supplements for students. Additional information can be found on the Texas Department of Agriculture website http://www.squaremeals.org/fn/render/parent/channel/0,1253,2348_2380_29978_0,00.html#29978
- Resources from the Department of State Health Services, Centers for Disease Control and Instruction and Curriculum links on the TEA H1N1 website should be reviewed and utilized.
Campus administrators should consider:
- Routinely clean high traffic areas with cleaners that are typically used. Special cleaning with bleach or other non-detergent-based cleaners is not necessary.
- Hold community awareness meetings to review procedures for limiting transmission of the flu (seasonal and H1N1), protocol for staying home when ill and any other pertinent information.
Parents are encouraged to:
With adequate planning, a potentially challenging flu season this fall should not cause a significant disruption to our students' education.
Commissioner of Education