US offers schools advice on teaching kids kept home by flu

Aug 25, 2009 (CIDRAP News) – If schoolchildren have to stay home for extended periods because of H1N1 flu, there are options for making sure they keep up their studies, the US Department of Education said yesterday.

The agency released a list of distance-learning options and resources that schools could use to maintain "continuity of learning" during flu outbreaks, ranging from hard-copy materials to webinars and online courses, along with practical issues and obstacles those options might entail.

The recommendations suggest that teachers prepare take-home assignments in advance for distribution to affected students and use the Internet and telephones to post homework materials, conduct classes, and keep in touch with students and parents, the department said in a press release.

The recommendations aim to help schools maintain studies for small groups of students who might be sent home because they are at high risk for flu complications or for large numbers affected by school dismissals.

The six-page document lists several options for getting learning materials to students at home:

  • Hard-copy packets
  • Online materials
  • Teacher check-ins via telephone, e-mail, or Web conferencing
  • Recordings of class sessions, provided via podcasts, television, DVD, or online
  • Live class meetings conducted via conference calls or webinars.

The document also provides information on challenges that districts may face in setting up various distance learning options and lists some potential resources and partnerships that may help. For example, the North American Council for Online Learning is cited as a resource that can help schools post materials on the Internet.

The Department of Education said it is working with various private-sector partners to make resources such as pre-printed lesson plans, conference call services, webinar support, podcasting, and virtual classrooms more affordable and accessible for schools. Companies and groups involved in the effort include Google, Apple, Microsoft, Scholastic Inc., Pearson, Curriki, and the International Association for K-12 Online Learning.

The recommendations were announced by Education Secretary Arne Duncan along with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, city and school officials from Washington, DC, and officials from the private-sector partners, according to the press release.

See also:

Aug 24 news release about distance learning recommendations

Distance-learning recommendations

Questions and answers on the recommendations

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance on school responses to flu for the 2009-10 school year

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