Will CHS be ready for a swine flu outbreak?

It was only four months ago when Rockville High School had to shut down completely due to swine flu. Today, with the virus and flu season approaching, many people are wondering: “What happens if H1N1 invades CHS?” 

Assistant principal Leo McDonald does not think that school will close due to H1N1 outbreaks.

“So far everything is going to stay open and function,” McDonald said. “[The virus] should not be a problem.” 

While CHS may not be expecting a problem with this strain of influenza, the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) has released emergency plans in case of an outbreak, and is encouraging schools to make use of the resources and technology available to them.

According to the USDE, teachers should be able to create and distribute up to 12 weeks of work by making take-home packets or posting assignments online. These options would be available to students who are sick with the virus or at high-risk of becoming sick.

In order to stay prepared, math teacher Kylena Cross puts all of her daily  notes, assignments, homework and class calendar online.

“I put everything on Edline,” Cross said. “I always put up the Powerpoints of notes we take in class so that absent students don’t fall behind. And they can email me and I will always email them back. Communication is key.”

In the case of symptoms of H1N1 or the common influenza arising at CHS, the health staff is prepared, and all influenza will continued to be treated, whether it is seasonal or H1N1.

“The criterion for flu at the school is all the same, despite the specific type of flu,” school nurse Deborah Stapleton said. “If a student has a temperature of 100 degrees or a fever or sore throat, they must be isolated from all people at a minimum of six feet. Face masks are also used to prevent the flu from spreading whether the student is in the hallways or the health room.”

The school health room also keeps track of all absences within the school. The number of students absent due to flu-related symptoms is then sent to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), where a census is kept.

“If there are more absences one day than the previous day, we are able to tell that something is going on in the community,” Stapleton said. “It shows the possibility of the spread of a communicable disease.”

To prevent outbreaks from occurring, staff is encouraging students to wash their hands regularly throughout the day and prohibiting students from eating and drinking in the classroom. HHS and MCPS will also be offering free flu vaccinations at elementary schools this fall.