SEATTLE — Seattle Public Schools, the largest K-12 school system in Washington state, has announced that the entire district will be closed for two weeks amid coronavirus concerns.
The district said the decision was not an easy one to make and was made as an increasing number of coronavirus cases were confirmed in Seattle and King County.
“The decision to close the district was extremely difficult. We know that closing our schools will impact our most vulnerable families and we recognize that working families depend on the consistency and predictability of supports and services our schools offer. We are working with partners and the city to determine how to best mitigate the impact closing schools will have on working families,” said superintendent Denise Juneau.
All school building activities including school day instruction, childcare, preschool, athletics/sports, health services, enrichment, etc. are canceled until further notice.
There will be no online learning as the district said not all students will have access to laptops and internet.
An emergency food plan will be put in place on Monday, March 16. More information will be provided by Friday, March 13. There will be dozens of central delivery sites to help students get food. Microsoft offered to donate thousands of boxed lunches a day, according to Juneau.
There are 104 schools in the district, with 53,627 students enrolled in the 2019-20 school year. Nearly 29% of those students have free or reduced lunches through the school and 4% are experiencing homelessness.
Juneau said she is aware of the economic impact the closure will have on the city and families and is working with city partners to figure out a services plan for families who need it.
The two-week shutdown is unprecedented for the district. Juneau said she will have to take it day-by-day in the event that the district needs to extend the shutdown.
So far, one staff member at Aki Kurose middle school has tested positive for coronavirus.
“I know we will get through the crisis and be even stronger on the other side,” Juneau said.
What are coronavirus symptoms?
The symptoms of coronavirus are similar to the flu or colds. Symptoms include a fever, cough, and shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, according to the Washington State Department of Health.
The severity of symptoms ranges significantly. Some cases are very mild with symptoms similar to the common cold, and some cases are more like severe pneumonia that require hospitalization. Most deaths have been reported in older adults who had other health conditions, according to DOH.
Symptoms may appear as soon as two days after being exposed to the coronavirus or as long as 14 days.
A new Washington call center has been set up to answer your questions about COVID-19. If you have questions about how the virus spreads, what is being done in Washington state, and what you can do if you have symptoms, call 1-800-525-0127 and press #.