I trust this note finds each of you enjoying a fabulous winter season. As we are midway through our first week back from mid-winter break, we are gaining more insight into the number of families in our community that traveled internationally during our time off. At the same time, the situation regarding the coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to evolve around the world. In the past five days, we have heard from families who are seeking guidance on precautions and we have heard from those who are expressing concerns. We all understand that we have a social responsibility to each other in situations like this as we are one community. Here in our house, we take this responsibility seriously.
To that point, a member of our Bothell High School staff returned to work on Monday after a week of international travel. They reported that a family member who was traveling with them became sick on Tuesday, and was taken to the hospital, and is currently being treated, monitored and quarantined. The staff member is also quarantined at home for 14 days. At this time, there is no confirmation that the family member's illness is connected to the coronavirus outbreak, but out of an abundance of caution, the family member is being tested. Our initial understanding was that we would learn the test results in one day. However, during my conversation with Washington State Department of Health Epidemiologist Scott Lindquist, M.D., and representatives of Public Health Seattle & King County, I was told that the test results may take 5-7 days. For obvious reasons, I have made a formal request that the CDC provide more rapid results and I have asked other community leaders to push for the same.
With that said, the Department of Health this afternoon issued a letter that indicates their belief that the risk to students and staff is minimal and that they do not believe the current situation warrants closing Bothell High School. However, as we await the aforementioned test results, it is out of an abundance of caution that I have decided that Bothell High School will be closed tomorrow, Thursday, February 27. While today, our support services staff have been taking initial steps to disinfect the areas where the staff member traveled on the campus, we need more time to fully and completely disinfect the entire school as a preventive measure.
In addition, we are in the process of contacting the families of students and staff or visitors that the staff member came into contact with on Monday. I want to be clear that the staff member is not the individual who is being tested for the coronavirus. These steps are being taken out of an abundance of caution. In these unusual circumstances as the national picture continues to evolve – and with the strong presence of social media - I know it is easy to begin speculating and questioning. I ask for your patience and your respectful grace for our staff member, their family, and our school community.
In the meantime, we will continue to work at the district level to ensure that we are planning appropriate precautionary steps while we work through this health and safety challenge. We are working closely with the State Department of Health and our county health partners as we move through this process. Over the past several days, we have spent hours researching and in conversation with health authorities, UW Department of Global Health faculty, and the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction in efforts to learn how they can support our district prepare for any possible health emergencies.
The safety of our students and staff is our priority. Please be assured that we are working with individual families who seek guidance and those who express concerns. What we are able to provide is the latest information that comes from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the State Department, the World Health Organization and the Washington State Department of Health. As you will note on the CDC site, the majority of the countries that have seen coronavirus cases, including the United States, have not been escalated to a warning level 3. This means that there are no travel restrictions in place. However, this is a very fluid situation and the sites are updated regularly. I recommend you bookmark those sites so you can check them as you feel the need. Please also note that there has been only one confirmed case of coronavirus in Washington since January. That person received medical care and made a full recovery.
Additionally, the CDC indicated on Tuesday that the coronavirus is likely to spread in the United States in the coming weeks, and may have some effect on our daily routines. In addition to the health and safety of our students and staff, I am resolutely committed to continuing the education of students when they are out of school for extended periods of time. Last year’s snow and measles situations helped us to understand the importance of identifying innovative ways to educate students outside the traditional classroom, and we have been identifying mechanisms and processes for continuing student learning through extended unforeseen events should this become necessary.
In closing, I want to assure you that we weighed information and recommendations from a variety of public officials, university partners, and health professionals, and we believe we have made the best possible decision for our students, staff and families. We will continue to monitor the situation and update you as we have more information.
If you have any questions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and we will try to answer them as quickly as possible.
Michelle Reid, Ed.D.