In 2009, the H1N1 pandemic took hold in the US and started spreading fast and wide. Within a year, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had recorded about 60.8 million cases in the US, resulting in 12,469 fatalities.
A decade later, and the coronavirus has already taken hold of the country again. However, it has been the level of unpreparedness that has caused the most pain, especially in schools, school districts and the handling of education by states.
Across the country, most school districts and states did not prepare for a situation, where they are locked out of schools by a pandemic that would last for months. This meant that they, therefore, did not set up infrastructure such as remote learning that would come in handy for such a situation, and the results have been devastating.
A study comparing the 2009 H1N1 pandemic and coronavirus
A new study is shedding light on the level of unpreparedness that the schools were in pre-coronavirus. For instance, the study found that only eight states had any guidelines on how to migrate to online learning in case they are hit by months-long pandemic lockdowns.
The report also showed that, while all states except New Hampshire, had plans that highlighted how schools should respond in case of a pandemic, many states who had these plans did not require leaders to have a plan on things such as remote learning, food services, or emergency planning. This meant that school districts were left on their own to handle such a huge task that required resource mobilization and wide collaboration, which resulted in the failure of the systems that had been put in place.
In a 2016 report, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) showed that over 70 percent of school districts in the US had a detailed plan on how to handle a pandemic. However, over half also showed that they did not have any plans on how to continue with education for an extended period of time in case a pandemic were to hit them.
Thomas Chandler, a research scientist at Columbia University’s National Center for Disaster Preparedness summarized the situation by highlighting that, although the 2009 H1N1 pandemic did not result in massive closures as the coronavirus has caused, it should have prepared school districts and states to react intelligently by analyzing their shortcomings during the 2009 pandemic. This would have solved a lot of problems that states and school districts have had to contend with during this period of the spread of coronavirus.
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