My university has A Plan for dealing with the H1N1 virus should it become a major problem in the student population this year. And that plan is that faculty should have plans to deal with the H1N1 virus should it become a major problem in the student population this year.
It's a little hard to plan for this. We can tell our students that if they get the flu, they should not come to class. But what else should we do? How much should we plan for massive absences?
For most of my classes (other than giga-classes), I have a system that I use when students miss class or an assignment, and I plan to keep using this system if at all possible. This system involves make-up assignments that require a bit more effort than the students would have to expend had they physically been in class, but not so much more that the assignments are unfair. The system tends to minimize "non-essential" absences without penalizing the genuinely ill, injured or grieving student. Student response to these make-up assignments has always been positive.
Supposedly we should also have a plan for what to do if we the teachers get sick as well. Here again I am thinking of adopting my usual plan of not dealing with such things unless and until I have to. It is hard to build some slack into a syllabus in anticipation of possibly falling ill, though I am sure I could find a short-term substitute or two to help out if necessary (and of course would be willing to do the same for ill colleagues).
I don't mean to dismiss the dangers of this flu by not having an awesome plan in place for my classes this year. I have never had the flu before but I don't suppose that means I would be immune to this one. One of my great-grandmothers died in the flu pandemic of 1918, when my grandmother was still quite young -- in fact, about the age of my daughter now. The loss of her mother was a deep sadness that my grandmother carried with her always.
Even so, I feel somewhat fatalistic about this academic year. I can wash my hands a lot and encourage ill students to stay home, but we professors have to mingle with the student masses and if they get sick, we are going to get sick. They may get sick in great numbers and we have to explore new options for how to conduct the course, but my classes are small enough this term that I think I can get away without major preparations and then deal with whatever happens as the need arises.
So that's my (non)plan for H1N1. I am glad that not everyone deals with crises this way.
11 years ago