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Northshore Schools closed Tuesday while district prepares for coronavirus response

Northshore School District staff and teachers took a day to plan possible remote lessons in case of extended school closures.

BOTHELL, Wash. — Northshore School District canceled classes Tuesday to prepare for conducting online lessons in case a novel coronavirus outbreak forces a lengthy school shutdown.

In an interview with KING 5 on Tuesday, Northshore School Superintendent Michelle Reid said the district has seen a growing number of absences as students, staff members and families become increasingly anxious about the spread of COVID-19.

"It's uniquely touched our community with many members of our families connected to the Life [Care] Center, either with staff who have worked there or family members in some cases who have passed away," Reid said.

On Monday, about 7,000 of the school district's 23,577 students stayed home from school. The district also closed Frank Love Elementary on Monday after a staff member reported flu-like symptoms. 

The staff member is being tested for coronavirus.

"We still don't have the results yet," Reid said.

The entire elementary school was disinfected.

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RELATED: Bothell HS re-opens on Monday after closing for cleaning amid COVID-19 concerns

Now Reid said the school district is looking ahead. She said many teachers and staff members came into work all weekend to figure out the best way to bring a remote training platform to every student, including providing electronic devices and internet access to families "on a need-by-need basis."

"When you have 3,000 staff to bring up to scale on a learning initiative, we absolutely need to pause in our daily routine and understand that what we are talking about today is not business as usual right now, we need to make space for this training and this a really important conversation about preparation," Reid said.

The district also used the day to deep clean campuses, buses and kitchens.

But at the park next door to Westhill Elementary School on Tuesday, Amber Braxton played ball with her son and some of his friends who stayed home Tuesday because the schools were closed. 

Braxton called the district-wide closure "overkill."

"Why are we shutting down schools when there hasn't even been a confirmed case in the district?" she asked.

Reid said that the district is preparing for the possibility of remote classes following encouragement by the state's Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. The state office also suggested that districts could make up or waive the days missed.

Last week the Northshore School District closed Bothell High School on Thursday and Friday after a school employee's family member fell sick after traveling internationally. That family member tested negative for the virus, and the school reopened on Monday.

"We had multiple schools where we had staff exposed, families exposed, families having traveled internationally in our community," Reid said. "Our folks have chosen self-quarantine and in some cases we've asked that."

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