Health and safety concerns are on the minds of Metro Atlanta parents as the nation watches the crisis surrounding the first person in the U-S to die from Ebola, Eric Duncan, and the progression of the two nurses who contracted the deadly virus while caring for him. Parents are asking their local school systems many questions about what plans are in place to protect students. Schools are responding with answers.
On Friday, Atlanta Public Schools released its protocol for addressing the possibility of encountering the Ebola virus in its schools. The district’s Office of Student Services released for public review its Health Services Communicable Disease Case Management Process. The APS protocol lays out a step by step plan that goes into effect in the event that a communicable disease is identified. The process details the way school healthcare staff, administrators and community healthcare personnel are to be notified. There is a clear documentation process for any potential case, as well as guidelines for public notification, education/training, and other protective steps for students and staff.
The case management guidelines include continuing to gather detailed direction from the Fulton and/or DeKalb County Departments of Health & Wellness Office of Epidemiology on specific steps for schools regarding Ebola and Enterovirus, the other dangerous respiratory virus that recently claimed a Michigan child’s life. As APS’s public guidelines continue to develop, the district will post on its website more recommendations and updates as directed through community health officials.
The APS Health Services Office is collaborating with the local counties boards of Health, Georgia Department of Public Health, the Georgia Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Education to ensure that that they are taking all the appropriate actions. As well, all agencies are working in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
The Fulton County School System is following a very similar protocol as Atlanta Public Schools to address preparedness and clear direction in the event of a communicable disease discovery on any of its campus’. The Fulton County Student Health Services (SHS) addressed parents’ concerns about Ebola, Enterovirus and the Flu on its website.
SHS is also conducting meeting with the Fulton County Department of Health & Wellness medical director and district epidemiologist to discuss preparation and planning for the district. SHS continuously monitors updates and recommendations from local and state health authorities as well as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
Copies of the communication letter to parents have been posted on the SHS websites in four translations. Student Health Services is providing staff training on new processes and guidelines for address Ebola. SHS is also currently purchasing additional safety equipment and supplies for school clinics and school health teams.
Both Fulton County Schools and Atlanta Public Schools joined the DeKalb County School System in outlining new student enrollment policies for any new students traveling from any area that has been exposed to the Ebola virus. School staff and administrators are to remain vigilant and observant of anyone exhibiting a fever at school and immediately following the new protocols established if necessary.
October 15, DeKalb County School officials blocked the enrollment of two students who had arrived from Liberia/Sierra Leone in mid-September. In light of health care concerns from the Ebola impacted region, DeKalb County Schools has required the family to present CDC confirmation or documentation from a local health department before completing the students’ enrollment.