The Cherokee Community School District's Pandemic Influenza Response Plan - a 40 page booklet devoted to the proper response of the occurrence of an influenza outbreak of pandemic scope - was laid out for the Cherokee School Board at its regular meeting Monday night.
Compiled by Cherokee Community School Health Service Director and School Nurse Julie Paulsen, The Cherokee Regional Medical Center, and Superintendent Dr. John Chalstrom, the booklet covers the preventative measures and action required should the District ever be stricken with such a pandemic.
The new Board policy was triggered by the current H1N1 (Swine) Flu that is rapidly being spread throughout many countries after originating in Mexico. It is a respiratory disease caused by a certain strain of type A influenza virus. Like other respiratory diseases, it spreads from person to person through coughing, sneezing, and contaminated surfaces.
The virus cannot be obtained through eating properly cooked pork or any pork products.
Paulsen explained to the Board the many preventative measures the District already is taking, including daily sanitizing the food service facilities, classrooms, hallways, transportation, administration, and maintenance departments in every building. The buses are scrubbed and disinfected after each route.
The District has worked with Public Health, the Cherokee Regional Medical Center, and the Center For Disease Control (CDC) to formulate the Response Plan.
In addition, Paulsen said she has increased inventory of necessary medical items for the District, including cleansers, hand sanitizer, masks, gloves, etc.
Paulsen said the District also is repeating instructions and educating students, faculty, and staff on such preventative measures as washing hands frequently, sneezing into tissues or into one's elbow, and by all means covering one's mouth when coughing. Signs espousing such preventative behavior also have been displayed in all classrooms, commons, toilet facilities, and hallways.
Chalstrom emphasized that such a pandemic outbreak is "not a scenario of if, it's a scenario of when." If such would occur, said Chalstrom, the District would communicate with the CDC and Department of Education about any school closing. He also advised that parents need to keep their child at home if they have a fever or are suspected of getting or having the flu, of any type.
Paulsen said she has been fielding many calls from parents about the H1N1 flu outbreak and said she tells them if they suspect their child is sick, to not send him/her to school.
Chalstrom said in any year during flu season, that an estimated 30,000 people die in the United States - usually the aged or young with other illnesses or immune disorders. He cautioned that the current H1N1 outbreak could be media driven and out of proportion, but that school districts still must be prepared with a Response Plan in place "just in case."
Chalstrom lauded Paulsen for her work and leadership on this issue.
The main intent of the District's Response Plan is to eliminate or reduce the spread of the virus within school facilities, and to sustain educational functions and District operations whenever feasible.
Beyond all the preventative meaures recommended and being pursued by the District, both Paulsen and Chalstrom cautioned parents and faculty to encourage students not to cluster elsewhere in the event of school closure for pandemic reasons.
"They shouldn't go to someone's house and hang out in a group, or go the the mall together," said Paulsen, indicating that this is serious business and would defeat the purpose of the school closing and the recommended isolation.
In other business, the Board heard a detailed report from Curriculum Director Beth McDermott regarding a review of the District's 2009 Iowa Tests of Basic Skills (ITBS) and Iowa Tests of Educational Development (ITED) results.
McDermott presented several bar graphs illustrating Cherokee student proficiency in reading comprehension, math and science.
The Board also approved a contract for Molly Johnson as an early childhood instructor at ECLC (Early Childhood Learing Center) to fill a position vacated by Susan Julius, and also approved a contract for Kurt Reynolds as freshman baseball coach for summer of 2009.