Swine Flu Worries

In response to the rising number of cases of swine flu (H1N1 virus) that have affected numerous U.S. schools, NAESP created a flu prevention page on its Web site. On it you will find a special edition of Report to Parents titled “Key Facts About Swine Flu,” printed in both English and Spanish, that principals can distribute to their parents. Also on the page is a link to the U.S. Department of Education’s Web site that offers guidance to school leaders about the H1N1 virus, a Communicator article titled “Principals Urged to Plan for Possible Flu Pandemic,” updated reports about federal action taking place on Capitol Hill, and additional valuable resources.
As of Monday, the Associated Press reports that up to 330,000 students nationwide have missed school as a result of closings related to the H1N1 virus. Tell us how probable and/or confirmed swine flu cases have affected schools in your district.

What’s Scary This Halloween?

Rashes, boils, pustules, fever, and chills—oh my! This year, influenza is not the only scary health issue that schools should prepare for. Methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, or staph skin infections, have been appearing in schools across the nation.The Centers for Disease Control provides information about staph infections and how schools can handle the threat at http://www.cdc.gov/Features/MRSAinSchools/.

Get Moving

Celebrate the Cartoon Network's second annual National Recess Week (Sept. 24-28) by encouraging children to "get moving." Hold a schoolwide recess rally and invite parents and members of the community to participate. This year, elementary schools can register for the Rescuing Recess Volunteer Challenge and enter for a chance to win playground equipment and up to $25,000 in grants. Visit www.rescuingrecess.com for more information.

Are Your Students Insured?

There are more than eight million children in the U.S. that do not have health insurance. Uninsured children are less likely to receive treatment for an illness or injury, which affects their attendance and overall performance in school. As schools nationwide gear up for the return of their students, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Covering Kids and Families Back-to-School campaign promotes the importance of children's health coverage and aims to get the word out to parents that low-cost or free health care coverage may be available for their children.

Visit http://coveringkidsandfamilies.org/materials/ to order materials and downloads, or contact the communications team at coveringkidsandfamilies@gmmb.com for assistance with planning activities and conducting outreach to promote the availability of low-cost and free health care coverage.

Putting PE to the Test

Texas just added a new exam to its curriculum—a fitness test for all students in grades 3-12. The Dallas Morning News reported that starting next year, students will be measured on aerobic endurance, body fat, flexibility, and muscle strength. To pass, students must score better than seven out of 10 peers in their age and sex group. Students who fail, however, will not be penalized. Texas education officials say the test results will help guide state research into possible links among physical health and student achievement, school attendance, and discipline problems.

In many schools across the country, PE has taken a back seat to such academic subjects as reading, math, and science. But as more and more children nationwide are identified as overweight or obese, Texas will bring PE more to the forefront and will become the first state to comprehensively gauge students’ physical health.

The first round of tests will be next spring. We’ll have to wait and see what the final score is, and whether other states will follow suit.

No More Sniffles

Hawaii just announced that beginning this fall it will offer free flu vaccinations to all elementary and intermediate school students, according to the Honolulu Advertiser. State superintendent Pat Hamamoto said she is recommending each of her principals to schedule a vaccination clinic. “Providing free and easy access to full vaccines for our students will mean fewer sick days and more quality time for classroom learning,” she said.

Nationally, 152 children in the United States died in the 2003-2004 flu season, many of whom were healthy and not in a high-risk group. At $2.5 million, such a program cannot be easily replicated in other school systems. However, there are still steps schools can take to prevent the spread of the illness once flu season begins. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides a variety of sources for schools at http://www.cdc.gov/flu/school.