Government and Private Industry Share Advice on How Learning Can Continue During Flu Outbreak

A high-profile cast of government representatives and private companies made a joint announcement about how schools can continue operating in the event of student absences or school closures owing to flu season.

United States Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan was joined by Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, District of Columbia Mayor Adrian Fenty, and District of Columbia Chancellor of Public Schools Michelle Rhee, along with representatives from Google, Apple, Microsoft, Scholastic, Pearson, Curriki, and the International Association for Online Learning to share recommendations to help educators start planning for the impact that seasonal and 2009 H1N1 influenza could have this fall and winter on schools and the learning process.

Government representatives have said they're especially concerned about the impact of H1N1 in schools because the virus appears to spread quickly among younger Americans. The Centers for Disease Control's DC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recently found that younger Americans, specifically children ages 6 months to 24 years, are one of the top priority groups when it comes to the new H1N1 vaccine.

"We can all work to keep ourselves healthy now by practicing prevention, close monitoring, and using common sense," Duncan said. "We know that some students may be affected by H1N1. And our top priority is making sure that they have a way to get well, stay well and to keep learning. With these recommendations, we're providing a menu of strategies for educators to help ensure that the learning process will continue."

The recommendations suggest that teachers prepare take-home assignments in advance for distribution to affected students and use the Internet and phone to post homework materials, conduct classes, share information, and keep teachers, parents, and students in close touch.

The Department is working with companies to make resources like pre-printed lesson plans, conference call services, Webinar support, podcasting, and virtual classrooms more affordable and accessible for educators.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.