“I have spent the past few weeks researching and monitoring the rapidly changing COVID-19 coronavirus health issue in our region and across the world … Now, I believe that the time has come for our district community to make an important shift,” Northshore School District superintendent Michelle Reid said in a Wednesday letter to families.
In her lengthy announcement, she further explained her rationale. “We are taking this strategic approach not because we think by doing so, we will stop an epidemic; we are simply trying to do our part to slow the spread of COVID-19,” she wrote. “We are no longer able to provide quality instruction and maintain an environment that is safe.”
On Tuesday, staff members and students were trained on how to transition from teaching in classrooms to online learning, a system that will begin Monday, the statement said. The district said it equipped all students with a device and a Wi-Fi connection in preparation of the move.
“We are now prepared to transition from the classroom to the cloud, to move teaching and learning beyond the four walls of the classroom for all of our students,” Reid said in the statement. “Our instructional staff have and will continue to develop their skills for providing instruction to our students within an online environment.”
Northshore teaches 23,577 students, 14.8% of whom qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. The district’s service area covers the cities of Bothell, Woodinville and Kenmore as well as portions of unincorporated King and Snohomish counties.
The announcement comes after the district closed Bothell High School for two days last week. It was the first Seattle-area school to close in response to a possible case of the virus. Since then, Reid said she was informed 26 Northshore schools have been affected via direct or indirect exposure to the virus.
“We are receiving numerous calls and emails from parents and staff who are self-quarantining or are choosing to keep their students home,” she said, noting the 20% district wide Wednesday absentee rate.
Frank Love Elementary School was closed Monday for cleaning after a staff member was tested for the virus. The district is waiting for those results to come back, the statement said Wednesday.
Ben Batstone, whose first-grade daughter attends Frank Love, said he and his wife have been waiting all week to hear the results of the staffer’s test. Because the elementary school has been closed since Monday, his family has been struggling to sort out child care.
“We’ve already started maybe ill-advised play date exchanges,” he said. “To make sure some parents can get some work done.”
He said he knows public health officials are encouraging people to reduce contact with others. But at the same time, it’s difficult to step away from the workplace for long periods of time, Batstone said.
Batstone said he and other Northshore School District parents are also concerned about the equity of long-term school closures, though the community is attempting to come up with plans to support the district.
At Frank Love, the parent-teacher association runs a food pantry and may organize snack drop-offs while the school is closed, he said.
“It’s going to be a little scary for the next few weeks,” Batstone said. “As a family, we’re going to just do the best that we can at every step.”
Reid said she was also informed Wednesday morning that a Woodmoor Elementary School parent tested presumptive positive for the virus.
“Our staff at Woodmoor worked quickly with families to minimize any additional exposure and send students home safely,” the statement said.
All evening events and middle-school sports are canceled Thursday.
Additionally, Reid said staff members will work to provide services to students with disabilities, those who use the free and reduced lunch program and families who need child care.
“I want to close by sharing how grateful I am to each and every one of you as we have navigated this challenging situation together,” Reid said in the statement.