Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
August 31, 2009
Schools develop strategy to target H1N1
Protocol, plus scrupulous cleaning of the schools are part of the plan to handle this worrisome virus.
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
EDMONTON - With classes in most districts resuming the first week of September, Catholic schools in the Edmonton Archdiocese have been in preparatory mode for the H1N1 virus.
"H1N1 is our main focus as children return to school. There are just so many unknowns with the virus, so we want to be as prepared as we can before children actually sit in their desks," said Lori Nagy, director of media relations for Edmonton Catholic Schools.
In an effort to avoid a swine flu outbreak, custodians have thoroughly cleaned all schools, especially in high-touch areas such as computer keyboards, light switches and lockers. The same is true for schools in the Red Deer Catholic Regional Division.
"What we did in the summer is have a nice thorough cleaning of all our schools," said Paul Stewart, associate superintendent for Red Deer Catholic. "Our cleaners are aware of H1N1, and our expectations on wiping down and making sure they get our classrooms cleaned up every night."
Nagy said, "We are also preparing a health and safety fact sheet that will go home to parents in late September. This will be the third year we've done a health and safety fact sheet, but it has always gone home in late fall. So this year we are moving up that timeframe because the majority of that health section, of course, will be on H1N1."
The fact sheets will reassure parents about what is being done as a school district for the health of their children.
Another possibility is information sessions for parents in September.
Edmonton Catholic also has an increased hand-washing campaign. Hand sanitizer stations are being installed in the front entrance and main offices.Schools are also receiving hand-washing posters. The phrase, "Please wash your hands if you sneeze or cough!" will be translated into seven languages on these posters. Schools can order the posters in the languages they require, including traditional Chinese, simplified Chinese, Spanish, Filipino/Tagalog, Polish, Vietnamese and Ukrainian.
"We are asking parents to monitor their child's health and, if their child is showing any symptoms of the flu, we are asking parents to keep their child at home for at least 48 hours after the flu symptoms have disappeared," said Nagy.
The same action is advised at schools in Red Deer Catholic.
"Basically what it comes down to is if you think your child is sick or has the flu, keep him home," said Stewart, who has also adapted an action plan on how to deal with the H1N1 situation.
"We have a protocol on how to act and when we should be looking at doing things. We've got a flowchart on actions we should take," said Stewart.
"So while we have our own plan, from our experience, back in May and June, when we had a student or two come through with H1N1, Alberta Health Services was telling us what to do."
Especially in elementary school, students tend to share items. But this year teachers will advise students to be extra cautious of this practice.
"We are being quite conscientious about limiting the sharing and limiting access to other people's materials if we feel H1N1 is a big concern," said Stewart.
Based on information from Alberta Education and Alberta Health Services, in the event of a swine flu outbreak, there is no benefit to closing schools.
"We could decide (to close a school), but we would do it in consultation with Alberta Health Services," said Stewart.
Within Edmonton Catholic's last school year, five students caught the flu, all of them attending different schools. This year the H1N1 bug has hit 1,630 Albertans to date. It was a contributing factor in the deaths of seven people in the province.