Friday, October 2, 2009

H1N1 and the Effect on Our Communities

While there are many great things happening in education in Kentucky, we do need to pause this week and discuss the impact of the H1N1 virus on our children, parents and communities in the state. The following link provides an update of the level of outbreak across all the states:

Over the past few days, I have spoken with several superintendents who are dealing with school and district closings. These are very difficult decisions and come during a period of time when we usually do not have to close schools. Superintendents are very concerned about the health and safety of children and staff, and we share their concerns. Our superintendents are doing a terrific job of coordinating efforts with local health departments. While speaking today with Superintendent Lonnie Anderson in Whitley County, I was able to hear the numerous efforts that he and other superintendents are making to ensure that they have the information they need to make decisions about school closings.

While health and safety are our top priority, local superintendents are rightfully concerned about the impact that missing school will eventually have on state funding and on student learning. The Kentucky Department for Public Health is currently gathering data on a daily basis concerning school closings. We also are planning on carefully reviewing the data by district and state with regard to month two average daily attendance (ADA). Our schedule is to have the data by November 1 and then allow districts to double-check the data. We plan on providing an update to the appropriate legislative committees in December so that they will be aware of the impact of H1N1 on schools and districts.

Several systems have fall break scheduled over the next week, and we hope that the flu vaccine will be delivered, so that upon return from fall break, student and staff vaccinations can be scheduled. We will continue to closely monitor the situation and provide information from superintendents who are dealing with district closings to all school leaders across the state. The KDE web site and site have valuable information for parents and school staff.

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