Recently, I traveled with Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt to North Carolina to call on State and local education officials to make emergency preparedness planning for pandemic influenza a priority. Scientists predict that the world is due for an influenza pandemic. We are asking you to build on your emergency crisis plans by integrating specific pandemic influenza measures.
Pandemic influenza could have a profound effect on our nation's school systems. Children would be expected to have high rates of infection and are more likely than adults to spread infection. Our schools are centers of community life, and educators must be integrally involved in State and local efforts to plan and prepare for a potential pandemic. In preparation for a pandemic, our schools are uniquely equipped to disseminate preventative health information to teachers, students, parents, and the local community. Our schools also must be ready to deal with possible school closings, staff and student absences, medical care for children, and the need to maintain and restore the student-learning environment.
Under the leadership of President George W. Bush, the White House and each Federal agency are engaged in planning for pandemic influenza. At the U.S. Department of Education, we are developing a pandemic plan to ensure continued services and assistance to State education agencies, local education agencies, and public and private school communities. I urge you to integrate pandemic influenza preparedness into your ongoing crisis management planning efforts.
State and local preparedness is critical. Secretary Leavitt and I have announced the availability of planning checklists prepared by the Department of Health and Human Services through the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These checklists are intended to be a first step in helping the education community prepare for a possible pandemic. The enclosed School District (K - 12) Pandemic Influenza Planning Checklist may serve as a helpful tool to begin those vital conversations in your community, if they have not happened already. This checklist, as well as current and up-to-date information on influenza pandemic can be found at www.pandemicflu.gov.
In addition, the U.S. Department of Education has resources, tools, and promising practices in emergency response and crisis planning available at www.ed.gov/emergencyplan.
The U.S. Department of Education is committed to assisting you in planning for the possibility of pandemic influenza in order to ensure that we all fulfill our most important duties -- protecting and educating our children.
* Note: The enclosure sent with this document included the "School District (K-12) Pandemic Influenza Planning Checklist" as of March 23, 2006. We are providing here a direct link to the checklist on the Web site of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in order to provide you the most up-to-date information on this topic. Because HHS is continually updating information regarding pandemic influenza planning, the document viewed at this link may or may not exactly match what was distributed in March 2006.