Seattle Public Schools: Plans in Place

Administrators at Seattle Public Schools (SPS) know that time will not be on their side should an influenza pandemic hit the Seattle area. More than 6,000 people arrive there daily from Asia, where the majority of human cases of avian fl u have occurred, and epidemiologists say that a pandemic will spread faster in highly populated cities with many travelers than it will in rural areas. At SPS the pandemic response plans are in place.

With that in mind, Pegi McEvoy, safety administrator at SPS, was asked to describe some of the most important steps a district needs to consider when developing its plan. McEvoy told us these steps include contacting the city and county emergency management departments and the public health department to initiate open, frequent dialogue on pandemic response plans.

McEvoy stressed the importance of following the guidelines developed by the White House and the U.S. departments of Education and Health and Human Services. (See p. 2 and article at left for more on these guidelines.) She said that because each district has unique challenges and resources, it is important for school districts to work with local agencies to make certain everyone is aware of local capacities. SPS reviewed its base plan for all hazards to look for gaps. District administrators also connected with leaders in the business community to understand what plans are in place for continuity of business operations.

McEvoy suggested that school administrators look at their public health projections and think critically about the reality for their district. SPS always considers three issues when planning for a crisis:

• Continuity of education—how and when to continue instruction;

• Continuity of business—how to support essential business functions, such as payroll, communications, and facility maintenance; and

• Continuity of community—how to assist the community. How does a district reach out to support families during a pandemic, whether or not instruction is possible?

McEvoy said that practicing emergency plans is the next vital step. “Tabletop … tabletop … tabletop.” This means gathering key staff and officials to discuss a simulated pandemic and to evaluate the response plans and procedures. For instance, consider that many districts stock “just-in-time” inventories of disinfecting and health care materials. Be prepared with a plan and the means to acquire additional supplies.

When planning for remote instruction, consider the needs of all students, including individualized education program (IEP) students who require a certain allocation of direct instruction.

She advises not to forget about the emotional toll a pandemic will have on the school community. “When a pandemic hits, the district will need multiple family liaisons in order to assist with the emotional and administrative needs resulting from the multiple deaths of staff and students.”

To download a copy of the Seattle Public Schools pandemic plan, go to:http://www.ed.gov/admins/lead/safety/emergencyplan/pandemic/
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