by Kristin Casale
Stow -- School officials are preparing for the possibility of a pandemic flu in several ways, one of which includes an informational meeting for the community.
Kristi Kato, pandemic influenza preparedness coordinator for the Summit County Health District, is scheduled to discuss "Pandemic Flu -- Not a Matter of If, But When" during the Stow-Munroe Falls Board of Education community meeting Jan. 29.
The meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. in Indian Trail Elementary School, located at 3512 Kent Road in Stow.
The state of Ohio's informational pandemic flu Web site, www.ohiopandemicflu.gov, defines a pandemic flu as an illness that "occurs when a new influenza virus appears or emerges in the human population and causes a global outbreak of the disease, resulting in serious illness as it spreads from person to person."
Kato said she looks forward to the meeting, stating the discussion will include information about various illnesses.
"Right now, the key word is pandemic, but it just goes back to emergency preparedness," she said.
Those who attend the meeting will be able to ask questions following the presentation, said District Superintendent Dr. Russell Jones, stating the meeting is designed to kick off the district's preparation efforts to handle a pandemic flu, should such an illness arise in the area.
"Why wait until down the road when, if for some reason, it happens a lot sooner than we're thinking?" he asked. "We want to be able to safeguard all of our students and employees."
Jones said the district scheduled the Jan. 29 meeting to aid the health district in its efforts to make the community more aware of pandemic illnesses.
In the event of a pandemic illness in Stow and Munroe Falls, the Stow-Munroe Falls High School will serve as a vaccination site for Summit County, he said.
The district currently is working on a pandemic response plan that would ensure school officials are prepared for an outbreak of a serious illness, said Jones.
The plan, when complete, will provide ways to maintain the education process for students if a number of staff members are ill, and it will develop instruction methods for students who get sick, he said.
"We also need to make sure we have a communication plan with the parents," said Jones. "There could be changes in our bus routes based on the number of students out."
Additional communication plans include placing any important information on the district's Web site, www.smfcsd.org, he said.
Other issues that will be dealt with in the plan are ways to continue to provide food service to the school buildings in the event of an outbreak and how to take care of a student who becomes ill while at school, said Jones.
The response plan is set to be complete sometime in the spring, he said, stating the strategy does not require approval from the Board of Education.