Valley school districts planning 1-day cancellations to make coronavirus plans
At least three school districts around the Shenandoah Valley have announced plans to close schools to students either this coming Monday or next Friday to allow faculty and staff the time to develop plans for any potential future closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
UPDATE (3/12/2020 7:50 p.m.) Harrisonburg Superintendent Michael Richards announced Thursday afternoon that city schools would close to students on Friday, March 13 and on Friday, March 20.
The day will be used as a staff workday for all city school instructional staff to plan "for the potential of at-home learning in the event schools are not in session."
School officials say, like other districts in our area, they made the decision in conjunction with the Virginia Department of Health, as well as local and federal agencies.
Richards said as of right now, the presumptive positive case in Harrisonburg does not meet CDC requirements to close schools as the patient is not linked to a school.
"It is a very frightening situation. We're facing a pandemic and so I certainly understand the concern, but I also understand that we need to use the guidance of the health officials and experts. That's what we are doing as a school division," Richards said.
Schools in the city have been reminding students and staff to be diligent about hand-washing and other hygiene, as well as keeping facilities stocked with cleaning supplies and frequently disinfecting high-touch surfaces.
As with any illness, school officials encourage parents to keep any child who has a fever or other symptoms home and contact a doctor for further advice.
The superintendent also said "based on guidance from the Virginia Department of Education, we may consider postponing or canceling any field trip within the US that could potentially expose students to the coronavirus. These decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis. Student participation in field trips is always at the discretion of the parent or guardian, and students who do not attend a field trip will be provided an educational alternative."
Rockingham County Public School will close school for students on Friday, March 13 to allow for a teacher workday.
Teachers and staff will use this workday to focus on devising plans for effective distance learning opportunities for students in the event that a long-term closure is recommended by the Virginia Department of Health at a future time. As a precautionary measure, all school events have been canceled for Friday, March 13 through Sunday, March 15.
In an e-mail, the school system plans to reopen as scheduled on Monday, March 16 unless recommended otherwise by the Virginia Department of Health.
Another school district in the Shenandoah Valley has announced a planned closure for this coming Monday to allow teachers to prepare plans in case of closures due to COVID-19.
Earlier Thursday, Shenandoah County Public Schools announced that all schools would be closed on Monday, March 16,for an all-staff work day.
As of 4 p.m., Page County Public Schools announced that they too would be closing to students on Monday.
As for Friday, March 13, Page County reported that parents and guardians may decide to keep children home if they prefer, and the district would excuse the absence.
School officials say they are continuing to monitor the situation and make adjustments as needed in conjunction with local and state health departments.
No cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in the Shenandoah Valley at this point, but there have been 17 presumptive positive cases in Virginia.
On Thursday, Gov. Ralph Northam declared a State of Emergency for Virginia's response to the novel coronavirus.
As colleges and universities across Virginia and the U.S. as a whole
as the CDC recommends "social distancing" amid the COVID-19 pandemic, county-level schools are considering options moving forward as well.
According to a letter sent by Mark Johnston, the Superintendent of Shenandoah County Public Schools, to parents on March 12, all Shenandoah County schools will be closed this coming Monday, March 16.
Superintendent Johnston said that the county will be holding an all-staff work day on Monday to prepare materials "in the event of extended school closures."
Staff will also use the opportunity to stockpile any needed supplies for classrooms and ensure that all preventative protocols are in place and current with the latest guidance.
No students need to come to school on Monday the 16th.
Shenandoah County Public Schools have also rolled out an in-depth COVID-19 Information & Resource Center
Family members can check there for the latest information from the school district.