To close or not to close? That is the question that many schools may grapple with this fall if the CDC's swine flu estimates become a reality. Last spring, more than 700 schools in half the states temporarily closed their doors due to swine flu -- and the illness has shown no signs of retreating over the summer months. So government officials are urging schools to start planning now to avoid panicking later.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or CDC, schools should avoid closing to keep disruption to a minimum. (I can totally attest to the disuption caused when schools suddenly close with no warning.) I'd also rather be safe than sorry. By preparing now, schools can react quickly if a student tests positive for swine flu. Here are some of the CDC's suggestions:

  • Segregate sick students and staff quickly and provide protective gear such as facemasks to children and employees to prevent further infection.
  • Develop homeschooling plans, including telephone or Web-based instruction, in case classes are canceled. 
  • Isolate classrooms or have students sit farther apart from each other.
  • Quickly isolate high-risk people such as pregnant woman and children with medical conditions.
  • Urge parents to keep sick children home, and urge kids to wash hands frequently and cover coughs. 
If the number of swine flu cases continues to grow, schools might even be asked to start screening kids and staff for illness, asking people with underlying illness to stay home, or to keep kids apart from each other as much as possible. Of course, if the number of sick students and staff increases, it's in the best interest of everyone for schools to close their doors to prevent the spread. If that were the case, I'm sure there isn't a parent out there who would aruge that decision.  

Fingers crossed for a healthy school year!

Thumbnail photo: Esparta/Flickr

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