Applying qualitative historical methods, we examined the consideration and implementation of school closures as a nonpharmaceutical intervention (NPI) in thirty US cities during the spring 2009 wave of the pA(H1N1) influenza pandemic. We gathered and performed close textual readings of official federal, state, and municipal government documents; media coverage; and academic publications. Lastly, we conducted oral history interviews with public health and education officials in our selected cities. We found that several local health departments pursued school closure plans independent of CDC guidance, that uncertainty of action and the rapidly evolving understanding of pA(H1N1) contributed to tension and pushback from the public, that the media and public perception played a significant role in the response to school closure decisions, and that there were some notable instances of interdepartmental communication breakdown. We conclude that health departments should continue to develop and fine-tune their action plans while also working to develop better communication methods with the public, and work more closely with education officials to better understand the complexities involved in closing schools. Lastly, state and local governments should work to resolve lingering issues of legal authority for school closures in times of public health crises.

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