Submitted by Lopez Island School District
Lopez Island School District modified its decisions moving the closure date to Friday, March 13 as leadership was informed by a non-teaching staff member that they may be infected with the coronavirus. That non-teaching staff member did not have symptoms until Thursday, March 12 and they were not at school that day. The individual in question has not been not in regular contact with students. COVID-19 test results will not be back until over the weekend.
The Lopez Island District has closed school for the week of March 16-20 in order to assess the growing coronavirus situation, do contingency planning, and in this current moment of uncertainty not have children in a school setting and in contact with larger groups of fellow students and school staff.
There will be no school, classes or school events for the week starting March 16. No later than Friday, March 20, school leadership will make a decision whether to re-open, and if so, how (e.g. full opening, telelearning, or a combination).
The step to close school was taken after consultation with the San Juan County Health Department. Because students come in contact with many classmates, teachers and staff in the course of a school day, and are also in contact with surfaces touched by others, schools are particularly effective at spreading infectious disease.
Leadership, faculty, and staff felt that with the exponential expansion of infection in Puget Sound that waiting until a child or staff was diagnosed with COVID19 would be too late, as that sick person could expose many others in a crowded school setting.
While at the time this decision was made on Thursday, March 12, there were no confirmed cases of COVID19 in San Juan County, there had already been confirmed cases in all of the neighboring counties: Watcom, Skagit and Island. Because individuals are only tested when they show symptoms, and also because symptoms take several days to appear after infection, there is a significant chance that the virus is here, as yet detected.
Although this virus presents much milder symptoms in children, according to health professionals closing schools will create a significant cut in the peak number of ultimate infections and is a key tool in reducing the rapid expansion of new cases. For this reason, on Thursday, March 12 Governor Inslee announced the closure of all school districts in King, Snohomish, and Pierce Counties, through April 24.
Shutting down the school for a week will also allow Lopez School to put in place televideo learning and extended learning options. Lopez School is also planning to provide nutrition services to students who rely on school meals if the closure extends beyond next week.
The school is aware that closing the school creates significant disruption to the plans of families. We are taking this extraordinary measure because the pandemic has reached a tipping point where the virus is growing rapidly in the Puget Sound.
Lopez Island School District greatly appreciates the understanding and support of everyone in the community as we work together to check the expansion of this virus and do all we can to protect the vulnerable members of our community.