AASA Survey Finds School Leaders Anticipating Potential H1N1/Swine Flu Issues

Aug. 19, 2009

Snapshot Back-to-School Survey Reveals Concerns About School Closures, Willingness to Host Vaccination Clinics

Amy Vogt

ARLINGTON, Va. – As school administrators across the country face the start of a new school year, the possibility of a re-emergence of the H1N1 virus, commonly known as swine flu, is on the forefront of their minds, according to a snapshot study of school leaders released today by the American Association of School Administrators. In addition to general concern for staff and students who may contract the illness, school administrators have separate, specific concerns relating to their district’s responsibilities in responding to any outbreak and in the operational aspects associated with their response.

AASA sent the Survey on H1N1 Guidance via e-mail to 173 school system leaders around the nation who comprise the AASA Executive Committee, Governing Board and Advisory Committees. A total of 61 members completed the survey the eight-question survey online between July 27 and July 31, 2009, yielding a response rate of 35 percent.

The findings of the survey are as follows:

  • AASA members have a suite of concerns around their districts’ responsibilities in addressing H1N1. Eighty eight percent (87.7 percent) said their biggest concern is protecting students and staff in the school buildings, followed by providing regular and timely updates relevant to school and parent communities (73.8 percent), receiving timely guidance from the federal government (49.2 percent), contacting and working with local agencies (35.4 percent) and getting information on what populations within the district are most vulnerable and how to care for them (24.6 percent).
  • The operational aspects associated with preparing for H1N1 raise several points of concern for AASA members. Eighty-six percent (85.7 percent) of respondents indicate that their biggest operational concern is knowing when to close a school, followed by maintaining instructional activities if schools are closed for a long time (73.0 percent), creating social distancing in schools (i.e., keeping individuals away those who might be infected) (54.0 percent), responding to media questions regarding illness in the district (46.0 percent), communicating school dismissal/closure to parents and students (38.1 percent), hosting a school-located H1N1 vaccination clinic (30.2 percent) and communicating school dismissal/closure to the federal government (6.3 percent).
  • A majority of school administrators would be willing to host H1N1 vaccinations in their district buildings and are flexible regarding the time of day when the clinics may be scheduled. Seventy-one percent (70.5 percent) of respondents would be interested in hosting H1N1 vaccination clinics, 26 percent would need more information, and only three percent (3.3 percent) were not interested in hosting vaccination clinics. Almost 80 percent (79.3 percent) would hold the clinics during/after school or at both times, while 16 percent voted for after-hour clinics and five percent voted for during-school vaccinations.

“As school system leaders prepare for a possible H1N1 outbreak this fall, they are putting the safety of students first,” said Mark Bielang, AASA president and superintendent in Paw Paw, Mich. “In addition to coordinating with state and local health officials, they are working to keep families, public health partners and the community informed about what the district is doing to protect students.”

“School districts are taking the threat of the H1N1 virus seriously,” said Daniel A. Domenech, AASA executive director. “AASA is communicating the concerns of schools system leaders regarding H1N1 to the U.S. Department of Education and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as these agencies provide guidance to schools on this issue.”

About AASA
The American Association of School Administrators, founded in 1865, is the professional organization for more than 13,000 educational leaders in the United States and throughout the world. AASA’s mission is to support and develop effective school system leaders who are dedicated to the highest quality public education for all children. For more information, visit www.aasa.org.