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Frequently Asked Questions About Pandemic Flu

Questions and answers about how schools can prepare in the event of pandemic influenza.
Q. Where can I obtain information about what schools should do in the event of a pandemic?

A. Contact the local county health department for the county in which the school is located for information and guidance related to a pandemic.

Q. What should schools do now to prepare for a possible pandemic?

A. Schools are encouraged to review and update their comprehensive school safety plan. Pursuant to California Education Code (EC) sections 32282 and 32286, every school in California should have a comprehensive school safety plan that is reviewed and updated annually. The comprehensive school safety plan should provide guidance for school administration, staff, and students for any emergency that impacts the school, including a public health crisis such as a pandemic.

Q. May contracting child development agencies receive credit for service provided during emergency conditions?

A. Yes, EC Section 8271 applies to this situation. Child Development Division Management Advisory 94-02, entitled "Reduced Days of Operation or Attendance due to Emergency Conditions," explains the California Department of Education's (CDE) current policy related to EC Section 8271. The advisory lists eight examples of circumstances beyond the control of operating agencies, including epidemics. Whenever a contracting agency’s days of operation or attendance is reduced for any of the reasons cited, that fact must be communicated to the Child Development Division in the form of a resolution adopted by the agency's governing board (or other entity for agencies not having a governing board). The resolution and transmittal must include specific information described in Advisory 94-02.

Q. May qualified school districts request nutrition reimbursement during emergency conditions?

A. Yes, EC Section 49505 applies to this situation. School districts that participate in the National School Lunch Program may obtain reimbursement during a state or federally proclaimed disaster. Participating schools may serve meals at no charge to a student who has been rendered homeless because of a state or federally declared disaster, and school meals do not have to meet federal meal pattern requirements during disaster period. Disaster relief organizations may designate schools as community feeding sites. Schools that are closed due to a disaster may apply for reimbursement to offset fixed expenses.

Applications for Meal Reimbursement During Disaster should be submitted immediately following the qualifying disaster to the CDE, Fiscal and Administrative Services Division, Child Nutrition Fiscal Services. Separate claims must be filed for each emergency event. Applications are reviewed after the end of the fiscal year, with a final filing date of August 20. Payment is contingent upon available funding.

For further details on nutrition reimbursement, please contact Phyllis Savage, Staff Services Manager III, Fiscal and Administrative Services Division, at 916-322-8326 or by e-mail at psavage@cde.ca.gov.

Q: Is there guidance for the appropriate use and fit-testing requirements when using the N95 respirator masks?

A: California Occupational Safety and Health Agency (Cal/OSHA) regulations include requirements pertaining to the use of N95 respirators by employees when used to protect them against health hazards, including infectious diseases such as pandemic influenza. However, schools should not fail to provide respirators to employees who need them, even if certain regulatory requirements regarding fit-testing and medical evaluation have not been completed. Cal/OSHA recommends that employers should provide the respirators and encourage employees to use them while continuing to come into compliance as soon as possible. Even a respirator that has not been fit-tested will provide some degree of protection to almost all users. For more information on respirators, please contact the Cal/OSHA Consultation Service by phone at 800-963-9424. More information on the Cal OSHA regulations may be accessed at Cal OSHA Guidance. External link opens in new window or tab.

Q: Where may I get more guidance on pandemic influenza?

A: CDE has excellent resources that can assist you with your pandemic influenza planning and prevention efforts available at Flu Prevention.

If you have any questions regarding pandemic influenza, please contact the Coordinated School Health and Safety Office at 916-319-0914 or by e-mail at schoolhealth@cde.ca.gov.

Q: Will local educational agencies (LEAs) lose funding because of excessive student absences due during the flu season?

A: LEAs that dismiss all students or that have a material decrease in attendance due to pandemic influenza are eligible to seek emergency average daily attendance (a.d.a.) credit through the CDE Form J-13A waiver process.

In a typical flu season, California law authorizes the State Superintendent of Public Instruction (SSPI) to exercise authority to approve emergency a.d.a in the case of school-wide student dismissal based on a declaration of an epidemic made by a local public health officer. However, due to the extraordinary conditions brought on by the spread of an influenza pandemic, the SSPI also may approve emergency a.d.a. waiver requests based on the judgment of the LEA that not closing a school or dismissing students would pose a significant health risk to students. The SSPI's authority to approve emergency a.d.a. to compensate for a material decrease in a.d.a. resulting from an influenza pandemic would be based on a declared State of Emergency issued by the Governor’s office.

Information regarding material decrease in attendance and school closure attendance credit can be found at CDE Attendance. The Request for Allowance of Attendance Form J-13A (DOC) is also available.

If you have any questions regarding a.d.a waivers, please contact Wendi McCaskill, Fiscal Consultant, School Fiscal Services, by phone at 916-323-1333 or by e-mail at wmccaskill@cde.ca.gov.

Questions: Coordinated School Health & Safety Office | schoolhealth@cde.ca.gov | 916-319-0914 
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