Key Policy Letters Signed by the Education Secretary or Deputy Secretary
October 2006
Archived Information

October 2006

Dear Colleague:

In March, the U.S. Department of Education wrote to you about making emergency planning for pandemic influenza a priority and asked members of the education community to work with their community planning team to create a pandemic flu strategy that could be activated as part of local schools' overall crisis plans. It is our hope that you and your team have made good progress.

At the Federal level, we have been diligently working to implement our own plans, as well as researching and collecting promising state and local practices from the field. To assist your efforts, the U.S. Department of Education has collected some sample plans, which can be viewed at These plans may serve as examples to help you formulate your own successful pandemic flu plan.

To assist in your efforts, we have also made a determination that funds from Title IV, Part A, the Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act State Grants program, may be utilized for general pandemic influenza planning activities. Please review the program guidance, which is available at, for additional information about administering these funds.

Enclosed is a brochure that identifies some of the prominent issues that you should consider in planning for seasonal flu, a mild or moderate pandemic flu, or a severe pandemic. We encourage you to share this pamphlet with your local planning partners.

This brochure, along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's "School District (K-12) Pandemic Influenza Planning Checklist," sample pandemic preparedness plans, and other planning guidance all can be viewed at This Web site is updated regularly with new information and ongoing developments.

We have created an outline to identify some of the common elements that may be central to your plan. As stated in the White House's "Implementation Plan for the National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza" and the "Department of Health and Human Services Pandemic Influenza Plan," an important issue for educators during a pandemic will be the decision of whether to close schools. School closure might be necessary to protect the health of students and school personnel, to limit the spread of the virus, or in response to student and/or staff absences. Depending upon the underlying circumstances, the duration of school closure could range from a few weeks up to three months. School closure decisions will require the careful consideration of many factors and coordination with all stakeholders. We are aware that many educational organizations have included the possibility of a prolonged school closure in their pandemic and/or all-hazard preparedness plans, and we strongly encourage you to do so as well.

In addition, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is evaluating the effectiveness and feasibility of prolonged school closure in mitigating the effects of a severe pandemic. We intend to share additional guidance on school closure and other effective community-wide intervention strategies in the coming months. In the meantime, because school closure for any length of time would have significant ramifications, we ask that you engage your state and local governments and other partners to develop a school closure strategy for your schools.

We thank you for making pandemic flu planning a priority. Your diligent preparation now will help us do our best in a crisis. Please contact Camille Welborn at the U.S. Department of Education (202-401-0051 or if you need further assistance.





  Margaret Spellings
Secretary of Education
Michael O. Leavitt
Secretary of Health and Human Services


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Last Modified: 10/18/2006