Nationwide, the number of schools that have closed as a precautionary measure against swine flu have risen to more than 430 campuses in 18 states, affecting more than 245,000 students.
Several health officials have already questioned whether such decisions will have any impact on the virus, especially if students end up congregating outside of school.
But there’s more to worry and wonder about as far as this new strain of influenza is concerned.
In case you’ve forgotten, we’re in the midst of a global recession and an impending pandemic not only reinforces the fact that the world is interconnected in myriad ways, but it hinders the efforts the U.S. and other countries are taking to recover, economically.
The SARS epidemic in 2003, for example, cost the world $40 billion because of the subsequent drop in tourism, trade, school closures and general disruption to everyday life.
In 2006, the Lowy Institute for International Policy released a study that examined what a pandemic (in varying degrees) would the cost the world, both in dollars and human lives.
They estimated that even a mild pandemic would result in 1.4 million deaths and a 1 percent reduction in global GDP or $330 billion just in the first year.
What does this mean for schools that are already reeling from massive budget cuts? I’m no financial or health expert, but I’m guessing it can’t be good. School closures are costly to school districts and communities in a number of ways and will raise a number of questions:
Do teachers and staff get paid during the school shut down? Will they be compensated in the event that the school year is lengthened. What will the break do to academic performance? What will it do to morale and social behaviors?
These aren’t easy questions to answer and I suspect they won’t be cheap ones, either.
Naomi Dillon, Senior Editor