Preparing for a Pandemic
For more general emergency preparedness and communication systems, see: Emergency Planning
- Emergency Response and Crisis Management
- Government Website for Avian Flu Preparation
From ISED list thread, Oct, 2006
The NAIS web site currently features links to helpful Crisis Plan resources, including sample crisis plans, under its Member Services section on the middle of the home page.
You might contact Taipei American School in Taipei (http://www.tas.edu.tw) for a copy of their H5N1 Decision Making Guide that was based on threat levels for infectious disease. We updated it last year as the cases of Avian Flu in the region increased. It was developed in cooperation with the Regional Medical Officer of the Department of State. We also ran a simulation where we had all teachers and students use the communication methods that were planned for their division in the event of school closure. While the simulations were run in the evening, they provided useful data.
However, all such plans for continuation depend on social quarantine only with a very low incidence of disease and we made the point that our plans for continuing education using email in the early primary and Blackboard at the higher grades assumed school would resume within three weeks. That time limit, while somewhat arbitrary, recognized two facets of shutdown. First, after a period of time, non-quarantined families send their children to other schools in other parts of the country or in other countries. Second, even with all teachers doing mandatory maintenance of their Blackboard course, an F2F course cannot magically transform into an online course and will gradually grind to a halt. American Interests in Taiwan (the de facto embassy) was telling their employees to plan to have eight to ten weeks worth of supplies in the event that an easily-transmissible mutated virus was as virulent as the unmutated virus.
Other Interesting points: We did form the teachers in each department into mutual support groups who were responsible for assisting each other in their Blackboard courses, with the most tech-savvy ready to help the least. The college counselors devised a plan to operate from home as much of their work was on subscription websites. They also started focusing more on electronic files. The backup plan for Blackbaud had the entire database and program maintained on a secure laptop and the database engineer synchronized the databases routinely. In the event of a shutdown, she would leave with the laptop and run the database from her home. If she weren't available, the Blackbaud operator would take the laptop. Blackboard and the school website are hosted offsite, with the secondary DNS hosted at the ISP for the school. In the event our network people could not get into the school for maintenance, basic communication and education could continue. (These procedures were also suitable if the school were heavily damaged in an earthquake or typhoon.)
Scenario of Schooling From Home
Fred Bartels posted this to ISED in Feb. 2006: I was thinking about this a bit after reading an article that indicated schools might be closed for weeks, if not months, in the case of a serious pandemic. Provided the electrical power, phone, and Internet infrastructure held up well I think many independent school educational functions (especially for grades 6-7 and up) could continue to function reasonably well for a number of weeks through the use of books, phones, email, wikis, blogs, chat rooms, and digital video... oh, yes... and paper, pens and pencils.
Here is an imagined day for a pandemic quarantined student in richly connected digital environment.
8 am: Phone blast message from the division head with news, goals and coordination information for the day.
8:30 am: European History class "meets" in a chat room. The teacher poses questions and students respond.
9:30 am: Work on English assignment using a blog. Read comments by teacher and peers on previous blog postings.
10:30 am: Call into a WebEx type site for a conference call with Spanish class.
11:30 am: Phone call with advisor about how things are going.
12:00-1:00pm: Lunch, phone calls, IMing, video conferencing with friends
1:00-2:00pm: Watch a video demonstration of a Chem. Lab. - work through virtual experiments on sites like http://www.explorelearning.com
2:00-3:00pm: Work through a set of math problems. Scan or digitally photograph and send work to teacher as an email attachment.
3:00-4:00pm Go through workout routine sent out by coach/pe instructor. Update wiki page with numbers of situps, etc..
4:00pm Hop on MySpace for virtual socializing. Not nearly as good as the real thing but better than nothing.
"Normal" evening of homework, TV, reading, writing and video game playing.
All of this seems technically quite feasible. The only piece my school doesn't currently have available is the WebEx type conference call.
My gut feeling is we will, thank goodness, avoid a pandemic, but I suppose it wouldn't be a bad idea for schools to spend a few hours brainstorming how they might remain open virtually if the physical campus were forced to close.