COMMONWEALTH of VIRGINIA
Department of Education
October 14, 2011
TO: Division Superintendents
FROM: Patricia I. Wright, Superintendent of Public Instruction
The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) is requesting the assistance of school divisions in providing absentee data during the 2011-2012 school year. Routine monitoring of absentee levels helps public health officials identify disease outbreaks as they are emerging in schools and in the local community. This partnership between schools and public health allows the health department to offer guidance to schools on how to limit the spread of disease, as well as provide factsheets and letters for parents, teachers, and school administrators.
VDH first requested student absentee information from schools during the H1N1 influenza pandemic and used it to monitor the impact of influenza on schools and the local community. Examining student absentee information allowed VDH to provide insight to school officials regarding which locations were heavily impacted and whether influenza activity was increasing or decreasing through the course of the pandemic. Student absentee information continues to be used to allow the health department to proactively reach out to schools when outbreaks of pertussis, norovirus, influenza or other communicable diseases emerge.
School divisions volunteering to participate are asked to submit two numbers for each school on each day that school is in session: the number of students enrolled and the number of students absent. The information may be submitted manually or through an automated transmission. The method you use will depend on the technical capabilities at the local level. An information packet will be provided by VDH that outlines how student absentee data should be submitted. To assist VDH in monitoring absenteeism during the 2011-2012 school year, please contact Erin Austin via e-mail at Erin.firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 804-864-7548.
This is an opportunity to strengthen the relationship between your school division and your local health department, allowing for better communication and collaboration in the event of a disease outbreak or other public health incident. If you have questions regarding this initiative, please contact Tia Campbell, school health specialist, at Tia.Campbell@doe.virginia.gov or 804-786-8671. If you require technical support, please contact Erin Austin, Virginia Department of Health, at Erin.Austin@vdh.virginia.gov or 804-864-7548.