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ACGC officials get ball rolling in preparing for possible H1N1 influenza outbreak later in year

GROVE CITY -- A set of guidelines for dealing with the H1N1 influenza will be used this year in the Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City School District.

The school board reviewed the guidelines at its meeting Monday.

Because the information regarding the influenza is "so fluid it changes from day to day and week to week," Superintendent Sherri Broderius said the booklet will be used as a guideline and not a policy.

By using information from the Minnesota Department of Health, Broderius said she developed the handbook for school faculty to use when identifying, reporting and responding to a potential outbreak of the virus in the classroom.

Schools are being given more flexibility this year than last year when it comes to operating if H1N1 is present.

State and federal health officials have not set a certain threshold for student absences that would necessitate the closure of a school building, Broderius said. "They're leaving it up to the discretion of the school districts."

One of the tasks will be to educate students about "coughing and sneezing etiquette," said Broderius. Teachers may also opt to increase the distance between students in the classroom and refrain from large group gatherings of multiple classrooms if the influenza is present in the building.

A section on community action includes tips for preventing the spread of the H1N1 influenza through voluntary isolation and quarantine.

In the case of increased severity, high-risk students and staff may be allowed to stay home without penalty.

The school board participated in an experiment Monday that, if continued, could save the district money and be good for the environment.

In a trial run session, the school board went paperless for the meeting by accessing the entire agenda and handouts (including the lengthy pandemic guidebook, policy statements and financial records) through their personal laptop computers that they brought to the meeting.

Broderius was also able to use one of the district's smartboards to display the information as the meeting progressed.

"I was amazed at how well it worked," said Broderius, who admitted she was unable to go without a few "crutches" and carried several pieces of paper with her "just in case." When the meeting was done, she discovered those papers weren't needed.

By not printing and mailing the board packets to school board members, staff and the media for Monday's meeting Broderius said the district saved about 1,800 pieces of paper, 30 large envelopes, $2 in postage to mail each of those 30 envelopes and "I don't know how much secretarial time" to copy, assemble and mail the packets.

If the practice is continued, those savings could be multiplied by 12.

"It was just a trial," said Broderius.

The board agreed to make another attempt at a paperless meeting in September.

Last year the ACGC Youth Energy Summit group took on some interesting recycling projects and got students and staff thinking about waste and preserving the environment.

The board's leadership role through its paperless meetings is another step that's environmentally friendly and will save the district money.

In other action, Broderius said she's pleased AGCG was one of the schools in the state that met Adequate Yearly Progress in student testing this year.

"It's very exciting," she said. "But it doesn't mean we're done now."

The board was also informed that an unnamed entity is seeking a federal grant to start a new General Education Development program to assist individuals seeking a high school equivalent diploma. The entity may rent space at ACGC's South Elementary in Cosmos.

The district is already renting a section of the building to the Southwest Service Cooperative for its autism and EBD program.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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