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A Message from the Superintendent: Update on COVID-19 Response

March 2, 2020

 

Snoqualmie Valley School District Learning Community:

 

Since the severity of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak has increased in King County over the weekend, we are providing this update to assure you that the Snoqualmie Valley School District has a plan and is taking precautions to keep our schools safe.  Currently there are no confirmed cases of the disease in Snoqualmie Valley schools, but we are busy preparing, in case an emergency response is needed in the future.

 

Public Health of Seattle and King County is not advising cancellation of events, field trips, or school closures at this time. However, we are closely monitoring the health and attendance of our students and staff, and following recommendations from Public Health authorities to minimize the spread of the disease. We are also taking extra precautions to disinfect surfaces in our schools per recommended health department protocols.

 

Should we be required to close a school or cancel events in the future, we will notify the community via email, District and school E-News, and posts on our websites and social media. 

 

Please know that our district is committed to keeping our learning community informed, and will continue to provide updates as new information related to schools becomes available. While we appreciate the intent and concern behind the many emails and calls we’re receiving on this topic, please understand that we need to focus our time and resources on our students, staff and school preparations.  As such we may not be able to respond to every individual question as quickly as we’d like. 

 

Instead, we ask for your patience and trust to know that this is a top priority in our district, community and state – that is getting our full attention!  The health and well-being of our students, staff, and community will always be our top priority. Below are answers to some questions you may have as well as current guidance from Public Health.

 

Sincerely,

Dr. Robert W. Manahan

Superintendent

 

 

How does the Snoqualmie Valley School District make decisions?

The Washington State Department of Health is the lead agency in public health crisis situations in our state and provides school districts direction on how to manage responses.  We work closely with the Washington State Department of Health and King County Public Health so we can respond quickly to any changes in their recommendations, guidance, and direction.  Any decision to close school or quarantine staff members would involve public health experts. Our district is also in contact with other Puget Sound area school districts and the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction to understand emerging issues, share resources, and collaborate on responses, when it makes sense.

 

Is the Snoqualmie Valley School District closing schools?

Snoqualmie Valley School District schools will remain open at this time. 

 

Should our schools cancel assemblies, sporting events or other gatherings?

At this time, Public Health does not recommend that the general public avoid gatherings, and they are not recommending cancelling events.

 

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. 

 

When would the Snoqualmie Valley School District close schools?

If a case of COVID-19 is found in the Snoqualmie Valley School District, we will follow direction from public health officials, which may include closing schools and cancelling activities and sporting events.

 

It is likely, at a minimum, that the Snoqualmie Valley School District would close any affected school for several days for disinfection.  An affected school would only be open after we are satisfied that it is safe for students and staff to return to school.

 

If a long-term closure of schools was required, is the Snoqualmie Valley School District planning alternative learning for students?

A District team (involving Safety/Operations, Teaching and Learning, Instructional Technology, Operations, Human Resources, etc.) is working to plan for a possible pandemic situation. Potential options for continuing education services have been part of those discussions, if public health officials require a period of social distancing and a long-term school closure. Online learning, unfortunately, presents many challenges for our district at this time. Any contingency plan would need to ensure equity and access to resources for ALL SVSD students, and not all families in our community have computer or internet access. While we’re making progress on this for students in grade 6-12 this year, we do not have the means to equip elementary school students with devices. Nor is our district set up to adequately serve the needs of students with individualized learning needs via remote support. Additional logistics would require staff training, lesson planning, tech support, etc. Therefore, it is not feasible that our school district would be able to support online learning at this time. (We are among several other districts in our region facing similar challenges and concerns around inequity, lack of resources, and sufficient support.)

 

Given the increased number of cases, will our schools be taking additional precautions?

Public Health advises:  “At this time, schools do not need to take any special precautions beyond what is normally recommended to prevent the spread of respiratory viruses. We strongly recommend that schools follow standard procedures for cleaning and reinforce the need for students and staff to stay home when sick, wash hands frequently, avoid touching one’s face, and take other preventative steps outlined by DOH...”  

 

Per this guidance, SVSD is following the recommended routine cleaning and disinfecting guidelines, with a focus on frequently touched surfaces. We ordered additional supplies early last week to ensure our schools are well-stocked, and have been told these should arrive this week.  We’ve also provided staff direction (and video links) to help teach students how to wash hands effectively and the recommended hygiene steps to minimize the spread of germs from respiratory illness.

 

In addition this morning, we have made plans to meet with employee teams throughout this week to equip all staff with training and cleaning supplies in an effort to support ongoing efforts to wipe down and disinfect frequently touched surfaces throughout our district.  In addition to efforts of our custodial professionals, the district will be encouraging an all-hands-on-deck cleaning effort for staff across the district to help cover frequent-touch areas where they work.  Per state law, staff may only use approved cleaning supplies that are provided by the district, along with training/instructions, in accordance with Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requirements.

 

Also this week, special efforts and staff training will be focused on areas where our most vulnerable student populations are served including: early childhood, Life Skills, specialty/resource rooms, and the Transition Learning Center. The district also plans to utilize Monday’s pre-planned Professional Development Day (when no students will be present) for concerted cleaning of common-touch areas. 

 

If our situation changes and additional steps are warranted we’ll continue to provide updates on these developments.

 

Anti-Discrimination Expectations

COVID-19 infection is not connected to any race, ethnicity, or nationality. Misinformation about the coronavirus disease can create fear and hostility that harms people and makes it harder to keep everyone healthy. Please help us prevent discrimination or stigmatization around this disease by sharing only accurate information. Public Health Seattle & King County offers online resources to address and prevent discrimination. Snoqualmie Valley schools are committed to welcoming, safe, and inclusive schools for all.

 

How can I protect myself and family?

Please continue to follow Public Health’s recommended steps for prevention:

  • Wash hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds.  If water and soap is not available, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Cough and sneeze into a tissue, then throw tissue in garbage, and immediately wash hands. If tissue is not available, cough/sneeze into your elbow (avoid your hands).
  • Avoid close contact (within 6 feet) with those who are sick.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently-touched objects and surfaces.
  • Stay home if you’re sick.

 

Stay home if you are sick and keep sick kids at home.

The Snoqualmie Valley School District has helpful guidelines for keeping your child at home if they are too sick. These are also helpful for adults to follow when they are sick. Find them here: https://www.svsd410.org/Page/207

 

When you call in a student’s absence on the school attendance line, please state the reason for the absence – including symptoms if they are ill. This will help usf monitor the health of our schools.

 

What else can I do now to prepare?

The Snoqualmie Valley School District encourages families in our learning community to have plans in place, especially for those with younger children. Actions to take include:

  • Finding alternative childcare arrangements for your children in case of school closure.
  • Talking to your neighbors and other parents in your child’s school about sharing childcare duties if your children are well but the school is closed.
  • Talking to your employer about policies for working from home or shifting work schedules or responsibilities if schools are dismissed or you become sick.

 

Stay informed – to verify facts and get timely updates:

 

This guidance is likely to change as this situation evolves, so please know we are committed to providing you with timely updates and guidance aligned with the best recommendations and guidance from our public health authorities.