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Preparing for beginning of school, spread of viruses

With the onset of the school year now less than two weeks away, most everyone is hustling and bustling to make the final preparations to get school routines finalized.

Those preparations can be include a myriad of things ranging from last minute school supplies to after school programming. The school is in that mode too, as it is making final decisions on a number of fronts relating to the education of our children.

One of the issues we're working on is the "what if's" surrounding the H1N1 novel flu virus. As school draws near, parents in the school system will receive a letter from me indicating the district's protocol on how the district will function this year when it comes to student and staff related illnesses potentially associated with this particular strain (and perhaps others) of the flu.

You will remember that there was significant attention given to the H1N1 virus last spring. Certainly the close of the school year across the country aided in the virus's exposure "peaking out" in late June. Government officials were advised that the onset of the 2009-2010 school year would mean a resurfacing of the virus and that schools (nationwide) should begin making preparations for the virus' return.

With that in mind, there is little schools and public health practitioners can convey to our publics in terms of information that is for certain. We do know however, that children age 6 months to 24 years are susceptible to the virus and as such, schools become a ground for the virus' spread.

To that end, school aged parents will receive a letter from me indicating that it's important for children who may be exhibiting symptoms of the virus to stay home from school. We'll be encouraging students to exercise vigilance where hand washing is concerned. And the district will be supplying each classroom in the district with sanitary wipes to use as another way to combat the virus in our classrooms.

As you are making those final preparations for the start of school, you may want to consider samples of hand sanitizer in your child's backpack along with the other supplies that will be used throughout the school year. We have hand-sanitizing units at the entrance of our school lunch lines for use by the students as well.

It's important to know that the school has been working with Becker County Public Health regarding this matter and together we are following the recommendations of the Minnesota Department of Health, the Minnesota Department of Education, and the Center for Disease Control.

It is our hope that the virus will not make a significant presence in our school and community. The importance of preparation is critical, however, as we focus on a terrific 2009-2010 school year!