Story at a glance

  • U.S. schools are preparing for prolonged closures due to COVID-19.
  • This follows news of the first case of community spread in the U.S.

With the first case of community spread detected in the U.S., schools across the country are taking precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 by adopting several emergency strategies like canceling abroad programs and setting up online lessons, according to an AP report.

Following the temporary emergency closing of Bothell High School in Seattle, schools are taking similar tactics as hospitals and health clinics in the U.S. are steadily preparing for new infections. AP reports that some schools are in the process of developing online curriculums in the event of a larger outbreak that mandates the school closing. Others are expecting increased student absences and are trying to anticipate how they would be able to compensate for missing days 

Other school systems are taking distinct approaches. Miami school superintendent Alberto Carvalho reportedly said that the Miami-Dade County School System is preparing 200,000 laptops and tablets to send home with students in the event of school cancellations. Miami schools will also implement a separate registration process for new students who potentially had exposure to COVID-19. 

School custodial staff and cleaning crews have also been advised to focus on frequently touched locations, like doorknobs and bathroom facilities. 

“If there is one place where a contagion can actually spread, it can be the schoolhouse,” Carvalho said in a news conference

Other schools with abroad programs in Europe, where the virus has spread and appears to grow, have canceled such trips. Public hand sanitizer stations are being implemented as well, and officials are even calling on schools to discard any perfect attendance awards to prevent sick students from coming to class. 

In an open letter to schools, the American Association of School Administrators (AASA) encouraged “common sense strategies” like preventative hygienic practices to combat any coronavirus spread and develop a system to report any potential cases. 

“The classroom is a wonderful breeding ground for viruses,” AP quotes Dan Domenech, executive director of AASA. “That’s why we need to plan what we’re going to do when we begin to see incidents of the coronavirus in our schools and in our communities.”

Published on Feb 28, 2020