Coronavirus update from Seattle Public Schools (March 2)

For the latest official updates, go to the SPS coronavirus page.

In case you missed it: This was copied from the email that was sent out on Monday, March 2.


Dear Seattle Public Schools Staff and Families:

The health and safety of our students, staff, and families is our top priority. Currently there are no confirmed cases of coronavirus disease 2019 in Seattle Public Schools. Spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a rapidly evolving situation and we are committed to keeping you informed. You can expect a communication from SPS every day until further notice. Changes in procedures outlined below will be reviewed with all school leaders tomorrow, March 3.

KEEPING SCHOOLS HEALTHY UPDATE

Handwashing

Handwashing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds is the most effective way to contain the spread of illness and disease, including COVID-19. We are asking schools to prioritize handwashing when students arrive at school, anytime they have used the restroom, and prior to lunch. These are always good habits, and critical to the containment of the disease. Our school-based staff will be prioritizing handwashing, and custodial staff will keep soap fully stocked in bathrooms and classrooms to support these efforts. Staff will also reinforce good hygiene and remind students to not touch their face, nose, or mouth, sneeze into a tissue or elbow, and reduce physical hand contact (high fives, first bumps, etc.). The district will work with individual school leaders to address school-based challenges to regular handwashing.

How can families and partners help?

If regular handwashing isn’t possible, the next best option is to use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer or sanitizer wipes, with at least 60% alcohol. Currently, the district has supplies for schools but because this is a national and global event there eventually could be a shortage. One-way families and partners can help is to provide:

  • Hand sanitizer or alcohol-based sanitizer wipes to school offices (at least 60% alcohol, dye free and fragrance-free)
  • General all-purpose disinfectant in a spray bottle
  • Tissues

These resources will help prevent classrooms from running short on supplies. The district is also providing schools with masks and other related cleaning supplies. The district has ordered an additional 6,000 bottles of classroom hand sanitizers and 400 large bottles of bulk sanitizer to support restocking needs.

You can bring donations to your school’s main office. This will help the district’s efforts to continue to sanitize surfaces and help with hygiene.

School and Common Area Cleaning

Custodial staff have been directed to prioritize and increase frequency of cleaning common and high traffic areas each day. In a normal situation these areas would be cleaned once a day. Prioritized cleaning includes bathrooms, the lunchroom, common spaces, door handles, emergency bar on doors, etc. This means that ongoing “maintenance” or litter pick-up outside will be deprioritized temporarily. All efforts will be made to keep students healthy and safe.

We have shared cleaning guidance with childcare, community partners, and preschools in our buildings. Our expectation is that they follow the guidance of the Centers for Disease and Prevention Control (CDC) and Public Health Seattle & King County. Please check directly with your child’s care provider or after school program with specific cleaning and prevention questions.

School Bus Cleaning

First Student, the district’s transportation provider, has increased the cleaning of buses. We appreciate their partnership.

COVID-19 SYMPTOMS OR CONTACT RESPONSE UPDATE

If a student or staff person exhibits COVID-19 symptoms while at school

COVID-19 symptoms include a fever of 100 degrees, cough, and/or difficulty breathing. If a student presents these symptoms while at school, they will be immediately removed to a quarantined space in the school, while continuing to be monitored by an adult. A family member or emergency contact will be called to pick them up. They will be unable to ride the school bus or public transportation home. We recognize this may cause anxiety and fear for our students and we will do our best to address any concerns. We are committed to ensuring students are supported with love, compassion, and care.

If a staff person exhibits symptoms, they will be asked to leave school and call their healthcare provider immediately. We will monitor the staff person’s health conditions as appropriate.

Public Health Seattle & King County quarantine recommendations

Who should self-quarantine? Self-quarantine means staying at home and away from others and self-monitoring for symptoms, including doing daily temperature checks. Individuals in the following categories should self-quarantine for 14 days per the CDC:

  • Recent travelers of areas to countries with widespread or ongoing community spread.
  • Close contacts of confirmed COVID-19 cases. For example, Barry’s wife, Shelly was recently confirmed to have COVID-19. Barry should self-quarantine for 14 days per the CDC, monitor symptoms, and notify his healthcare provider and Public Health if he becomes ill.

Who does not need to self-quarantine? Close contacts, such as family members or roommates, of people who have had close contact with a confirmed case do not need to self-quarantine.  For example, Joni is a healthcare provider who has had contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case at work. She does not have any respiratory symptoms. Her son, Liam, does not need to self-quarantine and does not need evaluation or testing for COVID-19. However, if Joni becomes sick with COVID-19, Liam will need to self-quarantine.

If the CDC requires quarantine of a staff person or student who is not ill but may have been exposed and has been to a school site, the district will do the following:

  • Remove the individual from the school location
  • Contact the school community – staff, families, and partners
  • Cancel all school events on day of CDC notice
  • Activate specialized and extensive cleaning of the school

SCHEDULE and OPERATIONAL CHANGES UPDATE

In an abundance of caution, Seattle Public Schools is postponing all district-sponsored international travel (including Canada and Mexico) to and from SPS. This postponement of district-sponsored international travel will extend through the end of the school year. Additional school-specific details will be provided by school leaders later this week. We continue to monitor and will communicate any changes for national or local travel including school field trips.

In order to prioritize custodial supports and resources, all non-district building rentals and events in Seattle Public Schools will be cancelled. District staff will be reaching out directly to partners to communicate if they are affected.

Assemblies, sporting events, or other gatherings

At this time, public health agencies are not recommending that the general public avoid gatherings, and we are not recommending cancelling events, unless the school needs to be closed for specialized cleaning. However, people who are at higher risk of illness may want to consider ways to lower their risk of infection, such as limiting contact with crowds. This includes people age 60 and older, those with underlying health conditions such as heart disease and lung disease, and those who are immune compromised (see People at High Risk for Flu Complications). Individuals with underlying health issues should talk to their healthcare provider to develop a plan based on their specific health conditions.

Custodial staff must be prioritized for daily cleaning in our schools and after-hours events presents an additional challenge to this commitment. Schools may choose to cancel or postpone school-based events in order to focus resources on keeping the schools clean and healthy

Seattle Public Schools has standard procedures on when we close schools in response to health situations. We will continue to partner with public health agencies when determining if and when schools will be closed.

STAYING INFORMED

The district continues to follow the guidance of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Public Health Seattle & King County in our response to COVID-19.

For up to date information and additional resources including how to stay healthy, visit our coronavirus disease 2019 webpage: https://www.seattleschools.org/district/calendars/news/what_s_new/coronavirus_update

Public Health Seattle & King County coronavirus disease 2019 resources: https://www.kingcounty.gov/depts/health/communicable-diseases/disease-control/novel-coronavirus.aspx

We are committed to keeping you informed and working with you to keep our school communities safe. 


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