Superintendent's Memo #229-09

State seal, Commonwealth of Virginia

Department of Education

August 21, 2009

TO: Division Superintendents

FROM: Patricia I. Wright, Superintendent of Public Instruction

SUBJECT: Transmitting School Absentee Data to the Virginia Department of Health for the Purposes of Public Health Surveillance
DUE DATE: August 21, 2009

The Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) and the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) are partnering to monitor the health of students and faculty/staff in each school division in Virginia in response to H1N1 Influenza (H1N1). Changes in the patterns of school absenteeism among students and faculty/staff often reflect changes in disease activity in the community. The level of student and/or faculty/staff absenteeism may be an important indicator that will influence disease control recommendations made to schools this academic year. The purpose of this memo is to explain the process which will be used to collect absentee data for this school year in response to the H1N1 outbreak.

Last fall, school division personnel participated in a pandemic influenza simulation exercise in which student and faculty/staff enrollment and absenteeism were reported to VDOE. One purpose of the exercise was to help school divisions identify and implement processes for reporting school absentee information should the need arise in a real event. During the current H1N1 outbreak, VDOE expects that each school division will share student and faculty/staff absence and enrollment data with VDH. Once initiated, this process will require minimal effort to maintain and should be automated or semi-automated. Technical assistance will be available from the Department of Health to put together the file transmission and troubleshoot problems should they arise.

The attached file describes the specifications of the preferred data transfer method. Please refer the attached reporting program specifications to your information technology administrator to begin creating the file necessary to transmit this data directly to VDH. A few school divisions began sharing this data during the 2008-2009 school year, and the process has proven to be easily manageable while providing valuable data. To accommodate the various information technology capacities of school divisions, we are only asking for a few variables. Information collected and sent to VDH will include date, school ID (defined by division number and school number), number of students enrolled, number of students absent, number of faculty/staff employed, and number of faculty/staff absent. The data will be transmitted in aggregate form by school, and no individual-level information will be shared.

The information on school attendance patterns will increase the ability to detect and monitor changes in the health of the population of Virginia school-aged children and those who work in our schools. If you have questions regarding this initiative, please contact Tia Campbell, school health specialist, at or (804)786-8671. If you require technical support, please contact Shelton Davis, Virginia Department of Health, at or (804)864-8114. Thank you for your continued dedication and support of these important influenza preparedness and mitigation efforts.

PIW / tbc


a. File Specifications and Instructions for School Absentee Data Transmission (Word)