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Seattle district closes school for at least 2 weeks

March 12, 2020
The 52,000-student district says fallout from the coronavirus pandemic have made it impossible to operate normally.

Seattle Public Schools will close for a minimum of two weeks starting Thursday as steps to combat the coronavirus pandemic escalate.

The Seattle Times reports that district administrators announced the decision Wednesday in an email. It instructs principals to treat the closure as if they are going on spring break, and lists some guidance for going forward.

“We know you do not have time to do everything, and we trust that you will do your best given the circumstances,” the email says.

As of Wednesday, the district, which educates more than 52,000 students, was still working on the details of how working families would get childcare. To get food, starting Monday, students will have to get to 50 or 60 school sites; there is no plan to offer food on Thursday or Friday.

It’s also unclear how this will affect the district’s staff. Salaried employees are covered during a school closure, but union officials said they’re  unclear on whether hourly employees such as instructional assistants would get paid during a long-term closure.

On Wednesday, two schools in the Seattle district had already closed because of concerns of exposure. Seattle district spokesman Tim Robinson says all schools have been shut down because “a growing number of factors have made it impossible for the district to operate normally.” Those factors include an increasing number of confirmed cases, and the rising need to deep clean schools because of potential exposure to the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Superintendent Denise Juneau says the closure was a last resort. “Closing schools is the last thing we ever want to do, but, obviously, this is an unprecedented situation,” she says. “The health and well-being of our students and staff is one of our top priorities and that’s a primary reason for the decision, but it’s also because of the potential wide reach COVID-19 can have.”

The city’s preschool programs that meet at district campuses will be closed as part of the districtwide closure. All other preschool programs will remain open or closed at their specific provider’s discretion.

Because the district cannot ensure that all students have access to computers outside of school, there will be no online learning.

Schools will be locked and inaccessible to teachers.

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