Articles from May, 2009

What a swine flu will cost

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

Naomi Dillon|May 4th, 2009|Categories: American School Board Journal, Governance, Wellness|

Week in Review

Pres. Obama marked his 100th day in office on Wednesday with yet another crisis to deal with: swine flu, which the World Health Organization declared as an imminent pandemic. Hundreds of schools have closed and entire districts have shut down across the country in an effort to contain the virus. Meanwhile, the recession rages on, ravaging school district budgets— though with a little advice from an ASBJ contributor, districts can be more successful at securing grants to augment their spending. Read these and other entries from this week’s Leading Source. Happy reading and we’ll see you Monday.

Naomi Dillon|May 2nd, 2009|Categories: American School Board Journal, Week in Blogs|

More swine flu resources

Quick update: In addition to the ones we’ve already highlighted, here are a few more resources on school district responses to swine flu—these ones are more in the legal department, courtesy of this week’s NSBA Legal Clips. And from NSBA’s School Health Programs, here are the highlights of the Department of Education conference call we pointed to yesterday.

Have a good weekend—and wash your hands!

Tom Hutton|May 1st, 2009|Categories: NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Wellness|

Swine flu cases increase, spread throughout U.S., causing fear

Is there any bigger news in education (in the country? in the world?)  right now than the threat of swine flu entering homes and communities, disrupting and shutting down activity? I think I can say decisively: no.

Over the last several days, Pres. Obama in several televised interviews, including one to mark his 100th day in office, assured the public the H1N1 virus was a cause for worry, but not panic. But it’s hard to suppress the urge to grow overly anxious, especially as suspected and confirmed cases of the virus grow in the U.S. and the World Health Organization ratcheted up its response level to the new strain of virus, declaring a “pandemic is imminent.”

Yup, that’s real calm-inducing news.

Predictably, schools , which are already breeding grounds for germs, have responded swiftly. More than 300 schools nationwide have shut down so far, the bulk of them in Texas, where 26 cases of the flu have been confirmed and  four Houston-area schools have been shut down indefinitely, prompting Gov. Rick Perry to declare a state of emergency.  

Besides putting classes on hold, the school closures have halted extracurricular activites and sports and have sent parents scrambling to find alternative childcare.  

All of this turmoil begs the question: are school closures an effective means of containing the disease? Yes and no, says Dr. Frank Esper, a pediatric infectious diseases specialist at Cleveland’s Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital.

“School closings will probably not themselves stop a pandemic,” Esper told the Los Angeles Times. “But they slow down the spread of the virus and give us a little extra time to study it and figure out how to treat it.”  

But, University of Minnesota researcher and Dr. Michael T. Osterholm, also told the Times closing a school would be moot if the students gathered on the playground or some other area while school was out.

Obviously, schools need to make determinations on a case-by-case basis. To inform your decisions, be sure to visit the Centers for Disease Control and the Education Department for the latest information and guidance.

Also check out Swine Flu guidelines and information for school leaders from the National School Boards Association.

Naomi Dillon, Senior Editor

Naomi Dillon|May 1st, 2009|Categories: American School Board Journal, Governance, Wellness|Tags: , , |
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