What a busy news day! With so much changing so fast, It’s already once again time for a another installment of of our special series COVID-19 Update, bringing you the latest developments on the novel coronavirus outbreak that public health authorities in the Pacific Northwest are working diligently to mitigate.
Unlike some of the nonsense that is unfortunately circulating on social media, all the information you’ll find here is accurate and based on sound science.
Together, we are facing an unprecedented health crisis in our community. In our response to COVID-19, we must depend on the wisdom of our health experts and elected officials and lean on the resolve of our strong community.
We have been following the guidance of Public Health Seattle and King County and implementing preventive and responsive strategies, but in light of Governor Inslee’s request that all citizens practice measures to slow the spread of COVID-19, it is now time for the district to act swiftly.
Starting Thursday, March 12th, Superintendent Denise Juneau and the Seattle School Board will close Seattle Public Schools for a minimum of 14 days as the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) currently guides. This necessary action is an effective way to disrupt widespread infection.
Beginning Thursday, March 12, all school building activities including school day instruction, childcare, health services, enrichment, etc. are canceled until further notice. Wednesday, March 11th, childcare and extended day supports will continue as planned. We have an emergency food plan which will be put into place on Monday, March 16th. More information will be provided by Friday, March 13th.
The decision to close the district was extremely difficult. We know that closing our schools will impact our most vulnerable families and we recognize that working families depend on the consistency and predictability of supports and services our schools offer. We are working with partners and the city to determine how to best mitigate the impact closing schools will have on working families.
We also recognize there are still a lot of unknowns about this disease and just how prevalent it is in our community.
Yesterday, we had our first staff member confirmed with COVID-19. As testing becomes more readily available, these cases will increase. While children appear to be more protected from extreme symptoms, adults, including our educators and employees, need support and protection as well.
As we have shared many times, our goal has been to keep our doors open as long as possible in order to support our students and the entire community. Our incredible school staff, school leaders, and central support staff have been unwavering in this commitment. We appreciate their service to our community, children, and families.
It is in times like these that our community values become visible. Please take care of each other.
Reach out to neighbors and lend a hand to those in need. We will get through this, but it will take all of us thinking creatively and continuing to support our community’s children.
The superintendent will continue to stay in conversation with the city, state, and local officials, and partners as our entire region responds to new guidance and a call to take an active role combating COVID-19. More information will be communicated Thursday, March 12th, to all families. Please check the Coronavirus 2019 Update webpage for new information.
Northshore, in the Bothell-Woodinville area, has already closed its schools for several weeks and more districts could be about to follow suit.
Lake Washington, the state’s second largest, has stayed open, but a petition with over 60,000 signatures is calling for LWSD to close its facilities and switch to a remote learning setup like Northshore has done.
UPDATE: Lake Washington now says it’s closing its schools starting tomorrow.
The Lake Washington School District has been following guidance from Public Health in an effort to stay open as long as possible.
In light of the current information shared today by our elected officials, we believe it is time to plan for alternative ways to serve our community and families.
In collaboration with our School Board of Directors and our Lake Washington Education Association, we have made the decision to close all schools from March 12th through March 27th, and re-evaluate any further closures during that time.
We know that many people rely on our school district for their ability to continue providing services to our community through their employers. We play an important role in the ability of many organizations to continue running for the health and safety of our community. This is not an easy decision, and our plans moving forward require additional planning and preparation.
On Thursday and Friday, we will be planning for an alternative model with the following services:
- Available childcare during school hours for families who are not able to remain home or serve in critical community roles such as healthcare and first responders.
- Available meals for children provided at school sites – details to follow.
- Available educational resources with supports for at-home learning.
We recognize this closure creates many different challenges, and our goal is to provide basic services to continue supporting our families and our communities.
We will continue to provide updated information over the next two days, and we would ask for your patience in submitting any questions or concerns to allow our staff to focus on their work and planning for the next two weeks.
We strongly urge families to follow the updated guidance from King County Public Health for social distancing and other precautions in an effort to slow the spread of this virus.
Thank you for your ongoing partnership as we work together to continue providing vital services while also taking new precautions.
Dr. Jane Stavem, Superintendent
Lake Washington School District
We will post a link to a complete list of school closings in a subsequent update.