Recently, I traveled with Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt to call on education officials to make pandemic influenza preparedness a priority. Scientists predict that the world is due for an influenza pandemic. We are asking States, school districts, colleges, and universities to ensure that your emergency crisis plans include specific measures to prepare for and deal with an influenza pandemic.
Pandemic influenza could have a profound effect on our nation's educational institutions. Students would be expected to have high rates of infection. As centers of community life, and as institutions that teach the nation’s students, our schools, colleges, and universities must be integrally involved in State and local efforts to plan and prepare for a potential pandemic. In preparation for a pandemic, our educational institutions are uniquely equipped to disseminate preventative health information to educators, parents, students, and the local community. They also must be ready to deal with possible interruptions and closings, staff and student absences, and the need to maintain and restore the student-learning environment. Institutions of higher education would face additional challenges, such as addressing the safety and health implications of housing students in dormitories during a pandemic. Furthermore, State or local officials may request that educational institutions serve as emergency quarantine facilities or vaccination sites during a pandemic. Educational institutions must also consider potential challenges related to environmental remediation if their facilities are used in this manner.
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 educational agencies, local educational agencies, institutions of higher education, 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. To that end, the Department of Health and Human Services, through the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has prepared planning checklists to help the education community prepare for a possible pandemic. The enclosed "Colleges and Universities Pandemic Influenza Planning Checklist" may serve as a helpful tool to begin those vital conversations, if they have not happened already. This checklist, as well as checklists for K-12 education, child care facilities, and other current and up-to-date information on pandemic influenza, can be found at www.pandemicflu.gov.
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 protect and educate our students. We look forward to working with you on this important matter.
* Note: The enclosure sent with this document included the "Colleges and Universities Pandemic Influenza Planning Checklist" as of March 20, 2006 (Version 2.2). 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 April 2006.