Anti-flu kit for back to school

anti-fluTwenty-five percent.

That’s the percentage of students (and faculty) that the University of Florida administration say could contract swine flu this fall.

With a student body of almost 50,000, that’s more than 12,000 students.

Prevention is being promoted on campus as in K-12 school settings. UF has e-mailed information to faculty and students and has a information Web site complete with a letter to the parents of UF students.

When I met with my seven teaching assistants last week, we discussed the flu situation and how it could affect our class and what we could do:

– Anti-flu kits – We agreed that the computer labs could be hotbeds of germ swapping with hundreds of students each day sharing the computers. I purchased an anti-flu kit for each TA — a container of cleaning wipes and a bottle of hand sanitizer. [That’s the photo.]

– Lab attendance – Attendance in lab is required with a graded assignment in each lab. We have a limited list of excused absences that does include personal illness, but in the past we have required medical documentation. UF has asked faculty NOT to require such documentation. UF doesn’t want the Student Health Care Center overrun with students seeking medical excuse notes. For students who have missed lab, we have made arrangements for makeup work. But we agreed that we could have to make those makeup arrangements for many more students. And sometimes, helping students make up a missed lab has meant sending the student to a different lab or having the student make up the assignment in the lab instructor’s office. We won’t want any potentially sick student in lab or in our offices. So we’ll be doing more makeup as homework.

– Lecture attendance – With about 120 students in each lecture, I don’t take attendance. I do give four quizzes during the semester to reward/promote attendance. Those quizzes are announced in the lecture prior to the quiz. The students’ quiz grade is based on their best three quiz scores. In the past, that 3-out-of-4 approach has taken care of the student who missed one quiz due to being sick, out of town, etc. But if UF does have a high number of students with the flu, I may be rethinking my quiz strategy.

– Talking with students about the flu potential – In my first class meetings, I talked with the students about UF’s projection of 25 percent getting swine flu. Eyes widened. Many scanned the auditorium and were visually calculating how many students in our class could be sick. I gave tips on flu prevention, including the CDC advice of washing hands as long as it takes to sing Happy Birthday.

The CDC encourages us to wash our hands in water that is as hot as comfortable. But that’s not possible on most of the UF campus, as UF doesn’t have hot water working in the restrooms of most buildings.

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