Nurseries and grade schools are prime places for infectious diseases to spread, and there's not much that can be done to change that. The close proximity of children to one another in their classrooms turns young students into sitting targets for the newest bugs going around.
But there are 3 ways a responsible elementary school will handle any disease outbreaks in their classrooms:
The school has a clear and enforceable immunization policy.
Some childhood diseases like whooping cough and polio were nearly eradicated thanks to vaccines. Today, some parents choose not to vaccinate their children. As a result, diseases including whooping cough and measles are making a comeback and putting young lives at risk.
Your child's school should have a strict policy about only admitting students who have been immunized for the common childhood diseases. While it is certainly a parent's right to deny their child immunizations, it should also be a parent's right to send their child to an educational facility that is safe from the threat of contagious diseases.
Be sure to read all of the school's materials and rules concerning vaccinations for students, make sure you and your children are vaccinated, and keep immunization records handy in case you need proof of compliance for any reason.
Administrators communicate openly and often with parents.
It's silly to think that any school can completely escape the infectious or parasitic outbreaks that plague large groups of children. If your child goes to a school with other kids, they will pick up colds, rashes and stomach bugs. They may contract the flu, scabies, or head lice. Norovirus and shigella are infectious agents you may have never heard about, but they too are showing up in elementary schools in increasing numbers.
These problems, should they appear, are not signs that parents or schools are nasty or neglectful about housekeeping. Bugs of all sorts develop immunity to our best deterrents and antibiotics, and children are perfect vectors to spread the now-stronger bugs.
A competent school staff will not be in denial or too ashamed to admit there are problems. They will contact you in at least 2 ways to keep you informed. This may mean they send home a handout and e-mail you, or they e-mail you and leave a voice message.
The school will tell you everything you need to know, alert you to your child's risks, and inform you concerning signs and symptoms to look for. They will institute mandatory quarantines of obviously infected students (meaning they forbid infectious children from coming back to school until they are well again) and expect a doctor's clearance before allowing sick children back into class.
The school has a well-rounded, serious approach to infectious disease issues.
Look for these clues to let you know your child's school takes infectious diseases seriously:
- School nurses and medical staff stay informed about emerging disease threats.
- Students who are feverish or vomiting are sent home.
- Proper hand washing, coughing, sneezing, and nose blowing are encouraged and emphasized.
- The staff has protocol in place in case of a swift-moving disease pandemic; for example, they have a way to notify parents, transport children out of danger, and minimize risks to staff and students.
- There is a plan to counsel students in the case of deadly or traumatic pandemics.
- They use medically-approved methods to clean and disinfect risky school areas.
Talk to your child's school administrators about their procedures and rules concerning infectious diseases. If possible, become a classroom volunteer to help staff educate and protect all students from the germs that make kids sick.