We are receiving lots of telephone calls and inquiries about student illness across the district. Similar to snow days, I will attempt to describe the process we are following and how we will share information. There were guidelines sent to school districts at the start of the year that we are following (fall2009guidance). Unlike last year, the state is encouraging school districts to keep schools open as long as they can function. Closing schools has not helped to stop the spread of the flu. We are collecting student absentee DATA daily and comparing this DATA with last year. Our plan is to post these numbers on the district website. There are several important caveats regarding this information.
1. We have no way of knowing how many of the absences are due to H1N1.
2. We have no way of knowing how many of the absences are due to parents being protective – that is a decision each parent has to make and they do not necessarily consult with the school department before making that decision.
3. We have no way of knowing whether there are students who are in school despite having H1N1 or any other communicable illness.
4. If a child has been diagnosed with H1N1 then the child should stay out of school until such time as he/she has recovered and is no longer contagious; however, ultimately it is up to each parent in consultation with their doctor to decide what is best for their child.
In regards to the decision to close a school, I am looking more toward faculty absences as a determining factor. If the buildings can function, we will hold school. If the number of faculty absences reaches a point where principals feel that they can no longer effectively and safely manage the student population, then we will consider closing in consultation with the Burlington and State Departments of Health.
My intentions are to share as much factual information as possible to allow parents to make informed decisions about their children. There will be some judgement calls regarding school closings. I intend to work with health professionals in the district, town, and state to inform these decisions. We are working on the logistics of posting the student absentee DATA. The information should be posted by 12:00 PM for that day. Our plan is to start having this information regularly available starting Monday.
If you have any suggestions, please do not hesitate to let me know.