While state-licensed day care centers are legally bound to post notices about contagious diseases such as flu, public schools are not. Still, many public schools are keeping parents informed about the spread of the swine flu, officials say. Day care centers must disclose communicable illness such as lice, chicken pox and flu, said Lauri Monetti, a spokeswoman with the state Department of Human Services. They can send home a letter or call parents, but most post notices on a door or other visible spot in the center. "They don’t have to pick up the phone and call every single parent,” she said. "They can do a posting visible to everyone that comes in.” When H1N1 surfaced last spring, school districts began notifying parents if a student was ill with a confirmed case. But as the virus has spread — thousands of Oklahomans are thought to have contracted H1N1 — it’s become impossible to alert parents about every case. Also, the state is no longer testing every patient for H1N1. State Education Department spokeswoman Shelly Hickman said the process for notifying parents when there are cases of swine flu is a local decision, but most districts seem to be following a similar pattern. Most are not notifying parents every time there is a case of H1N1, but they have notified parents of absences because of flu-like illnesses and suspected cases of swine flu. "It’s been my experience when talking to schools that they’re very aware of the situation in their schools,” Hickman said. "They’re finding out about it.” Parents must notify schools when their children are absent and the reason why. Many districts contact parents if they haven’t heard from them, Hickman said. Norman Schools Superintendent Joe Siano said even if a case is confirmed through lab testing, the process can take up to 10 days. So notifying parents would not be timely. Siano said districtwide attendance has been down 6 to 7 percent each day. The district has sent several letters to parents telling them how to prevent the spread of flu and what symptoms to watch for. "We feel like we’ve stayed ahead of the game,” he said. CONTRIBUTING: DAWN MARKS, STAFF WRITER
Absences because of flu-like symptoms shouldn’t keep districts from meeting federal attendance regulations. The U.S. Department of Education has stated that districts can apply for waivers for attendance requirements related to adequate yearly progress, said Shelly Hickman, state Education Department spokeswoman. Department officials are reviewing guidance on that process now, she said. Attendance rate is one of the factors that help determine whether schools and school districts meet adequate yearly progress under No Child Left Behind. Other factors include test scores and graduation rates.