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Northshore schools adjust to 'new normal' as classes move online in coronavirus response

Students throughout the district will take classes from home for up to 14 days to stop the spread of the COVID-19.

WOODINVILLE, Wash. — There wasn't a single student in Randy Huybers' chemistry class at Woodinville High School on Monday, but school was still in session.

That's the way it will be across the Northshore School District for up to 14 days. All 23,000 students in the district will learn from home with cameras and computers.

Mostly everything in Huybers' science class was an experiment on day one of the temporary solution to keep students and staff safe from the virus that causes COVID-19.

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"My biggest challenge is 24 hours ago, I didn't know any of the technology," Huybers said. "Now I'm trying to keep it up and running without glitching."

Health officials have encouraged "social distancing," avoiding crowded situations, as a way to stop the spread of novel coronavirus. Northshore District Superintendent Michelle Reid told KING 5 last week that the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction also suggested online learning as an option for districts who can ensure that they can reach all students.

The district has made laptops and WiFi hot spots available to students who do not have access at home.

School counselor Katherine Lamb said the new situation takes some getting used to. 

"We're used to snow days here and there, not dealing with a virus," she said. "It's just weird being in a building without students and laughter and being able to respond when they need us."

The district is also making arrangements to feed all students who depend on their school cafeterias for lunch.

About 3,000 children across the Northshore district qualify for free or reduced meals, but food is being made available for all students. 

Kids can come pick up lunches at their schools, or bus drivers also can deliver meals to students.

"If students are out of school, it may be one less meal they're getting a day," said Director of Food Services Juliana Fisher. "For some families, it may be their only hot meal of the day."

School officials reported no problems on day one of the "new normal."

Randy Huybers said he's simply grateful he's teaching at all.

"Otherwise, we'd be completely shut down. It's very much better than the alternative."

RELATED: Real-time updates: Latest news on the COVID-19 outbreak in Western Washington

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